RAINELLE, WV (WVNS)– A nationwide coast-to-coast motorcycle ride to honor veterans who lost their lives made its way through Rainelle Thursday afternoon.
The Run for the Wall motorcycle ride began nearly a month ago in Ontario, California and riders will arrive in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, May 29 to honor those who lost their lives in service to our country.
Retired Corporal Raymond Manzo, one of the founders of the Run for the Wall cross-country ride, said Rainelle actually wasn’t one of the planned stops on the original ride over 40 years ago, but a twist of fate back in the 80s turned it into one of the ride’s signature stops.
“When they approached the toll booth (in the ’80s), they said that they would not allow the bikes to go through for free. And there were so many of them, and how do you have thousands of bikes putting their coins in, right? So they got annoyed and they said ‘you know what? We’ll go another route,’ and they did a turn-around, and they just accidentally came across this town, and they’ve been doing it ever since!” Corporal Manzo told 59News.
The streets of Rainelle were lined with signs, flags, and people cheering the riders on.
Some of the biggest fans were the elementary school students, who lined up for autographs after greeting the riders with a hero’s welcome.
“The very first time I came to this run here in Rainelle, when I saw all these children, the faces, the smiles, the patriotism of them with their flags, they looked at us like we were their heroes. And you could see it,” said Manzo. “They were so proud that we were here for them.”
Retired Corporal Manzo told us he was moved to tears by the kids.
The riders will complete their month-long journey across the country when they make their way into Washington D.C. on Sunday.
When the caravan of bikes arrived in Rainelle, riders were greeted by the sight of the Mountaineer Garden of Honor.
Volunteers placed over eleven thousand American flags on the front lawn of the Rainelle Medical Center, one flag in honor of every West Virginian killed in action during battle since World War I.
“It is just a very moving and touching memorial that we like to display every year,” said L.Z. Rainelle, West Virginia Veterans’ Reunion President Molisha Samples. “We are in our sixth year of putting it up for display.”
Samples also said she and her team are looking for volunteers to help pick up the flags when the weekend is over. She’s inviting anyone to take home as many American flags as they can pick up.