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05-24-07, 07:55 AM
Rolling Thunder stops in WL

Traveling motorcyclists honor veterans


When Mike Barnes was serving in Vietnam with the First Battalion Ninth Marines, his comrades nicknamed him Bad News.

But now, along with a group whose destination is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., he brings good news to veterans along the way.

"They're not forgotten," said Barnes, who is part of a motorcycle brigade that has one goal - to honor and remember United States veterans. "We're here to let our country know not to forget."

About 140 people from various states have joined Run For The Wall, which is now more than a mile long. Barnes expects that number to grow steadily before participants reach their destination on Memorial Day.

On Wednesday, riders pulled up in front of the Indiana Veterans' Home to spread their message of gratitude and honor to those who have served America.

Larry Roberts, a Vietnam veteran who lives at the home in West Lafayette, rolled his wheelchair to a spot where he could get a good view of the riders' arrival.

"These guys have a tendency to want to go visit the wall, not only for themselves but for guys like me," said Roberts, who lost both of his legs in the war.

Bill Summerfield, a Vietnam veteran who works at the home, said the riders also want to make sure politicians acknowledge the rights of prisoners of war and those missing in action.

"Politicians may ignore us individually, but they can't ignore 600,000 people camped on the front lawn of Washington, D.C.," Summerfield said.

This is the fifth year the group has stopped at the home. Travis Reed, director of safety and security operations for the home, said the residents believe it is an important mission.

"I've seen everything from the tightest of hugs to uncontrollable tears," said Reed, who also rides for the American Legion and Patriot Guard.

"They take what they're doing to heart."

After the group presented the veterans with a donation of $500, the riders joined hands and sang "God Bless the USA," while many veterans wept.

"It brings tears to your eyes and warms your heart," said Dennis Methany, a Navy veteran who said he rides for those who can't. "If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here -- or we wouldn't be free."