NEEDLES — From school-age youngsters up, the community turns out Wednesday, May 15, to welcome the Run For The Wall to Needles.

The group of hundreds of motorcyclists: U.S. Military veterans and their supporters, leave Ontario, Calif., that morning in three “Packs” on their 31st cross-country run to Washington, D.C. The central route, with more than 400 riders, arrives for lunch at Needles’ Santa Fe Park about 1:45 p.m.; a tradition for around two decades. “We Ride for Those Who Can’t,” the riders proudly proclaim. Now identified as the largest and longest organized cross-country motorcycle run of its kind in the world, the riders’ mission is “To promote healing among all veterans and their families and friends, to call for an accounting of all prisoners of war and those missing in action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those killed in action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world.”

Locally, the event has grown to a community-wide celebration of appreciation for their country and those who defend her resembling the patriotism of Independence Day gatherings in cooler climes.

The Needles Chamber of Commerce now hosts the local observances and have produced a program of what those attending may expect. Remember that shepherding hundreds of riders across hundreds of miles and organizing hundreds of people to welcome them to one community is an inexact science and expect some last-minute variations.

Volunteers begin setting up for the event at about 9 a.m. Sponsors donating and delivering items begin arriving shortly after. The program proper begins around 1:15 p.m. with patriotic music from the Needles High School Mustang Band. As the riders arrive they’ll be welcomed to the community by Chamber President Mary Gonzales, an invocation by Pastor Marty Souter and performance of the National Anthem by Cheree Souter.

Long-time event supporter Tim Duncan presents an award of recognition to Di Lucas for attracting the run’s attention to Needles in the first place, some 20 years ago. Mayor Jeff Williams presents proclamations from the city; Needles Unified School District Superintendent Mary McNeil Ph.D presents a proclamation, certificate of appreciation and recognition of military service.

Proclamations follow by local resident Phil LeJeune, field representative for Dist. 1 San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood and Isis Fuentes, field representative for Dist. 33 Assemblyman Jay Obernolte.

Run For The Wall officials will address the community, followed by a performance by the Mohave High School ROTC Drill Team.

The Fort Mojave Indian Tribal Band, established in 1906, perform while the riders have lunch.

Lunch done, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 404 Honor Guard offers a salute as the pack leaves Santa Fe Park, bound for the East Broadway interchange with Interstate 40 via F and Front streets.

Cleanup begins immediately after the riders’ departure.

To volunteer or donate, contact the Needles Chamber of Commerce at their new office at 119 F St.; right across the street from Santa Fe Park. Call 760-326-2050 or use their new email address: info@needleschamber.com.

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