'Run for the Wall,' brings hundreds of bikers, veterans to Wytheville

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WYTHEVILLE, Va (WDBJ7) "This was taken just before he deployed to Southeast Asia," said Karoni Forrester, pointing to a photo she has been carrying across America.
It shows her as a toddler, held close in the arms of her dad, marine corps aviator Capt. Ron Forrester.

"It's one of the last photos I have of him," she said.

It's one of the last because Ron Forrester has been missing in action for nearly 50 years. He disappeared on a mission over North Vietnam.

It's a story that would feel familiar to any one of the 500 bikers who roared into Wytheville Wednesday night as part of the annual Run for the Wall.

"Our mission is to raise awareness for POW and MIAs," said Chad O'Dell.

O'Dell is one of the Run for the Wall bikers. They're a group of veterans or family members, riding across America to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC.

"It's a life changing experience," said O'Dell.

Wednesday, O'Dell and the others were gathered at one of their favorite spots on the whole ride, right off Main Street in Wytheville.

"We got steak, baked potatoes, chicken. I mean we go all out for them," said Chuck Woods. Woods is the former governor of Moose Lodge 394, which has hosted the bikers here for 26 years.

"It's just an overall joy for us to do this," he said.

Every year, the bikers roll up by the dozens, and dismount to hugs and handshakes. The steak dinner they're served inside is free.

"It's an awesome, awesome dinner," said O'Dell.

And the atmosphere, according to many, is just like home.

"You will walk 30 feet and you will laugh, you will cry, and you will laugh again," said another biker.

Former Wytheville Mayor Trent Crewe says it's just as big a deal for the city too.

Community members "line the streets when they come in and when they leave," he said.

For the bikers, the dinner is a chance to share their stories, and remember those lost before they saddle up, and hit the road again, to complete their journey for those who can't.