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Arkansas veterans honored as motorcyclists travel cross country

More than 260 riders made their way through Russellville, en route from California to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas — A large American flag hung by the local fire department blows with the wind as motorcyclists ride over a hill to the River Valley Veterans Memorial Park in Russellville. 

They are riding as part of 'Run for the Wall', and are stopping to rest and eat at the memorial park along their journey.

'Run for the Wall' is an annual motorcycle ride in the United States that features parades around the country supporting Veterans and patriots traveling from Ontario, California to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. 

They ride across the country to remember those Veterans missing in action, killed in action, or others who are prisoners of war. 

Their ride through Arkansas counts as day 5 for them traveling from the West Coast to the east. While resting, they also honored the veterans remembered at the memorial.

"It's the longest and hardest ride through the entire journey. We have a lot of miles to put in," said Christina Roulston, the Arkansas state coordinator for 'Run for the Wall'. 

Roulston said the stop in Russellville is a new one. They usually stop for lunch in Coal Hill, Arkansas but the usual organization they work with has veterans who are aging and dealing with health problems. So unfortunately they weren't able to feed them this year. 

She continues to be proud of all the veteran organizations who came together to provide a place of rest for the motorcyclists at River Valley. 

Roulston is from Russellville herself and connected with the local veteran's coalition to make it happen. It's her hope that they can continue to do this for years to come. 

"Run for the Wall is a very emotional journey. It is a lot of healing and part of that healing is what you see here-- communities getting out to provide lunch, dinner and support," said Roulston. 

Pope County Judge Ben Cross was in the army and deployed during operation desert storm. He said that as a veteran himself, he's proud of the outreach that the local veterans groups achieved to support the mission of the 'Run for the Wall'.

"Our veterans park is a big piece of our community now. It's an honor to have this group here to be recognized, but also to recognize the sacrifice that's been presented out here in our veteran's park," said Cross. 

He said the county has nearly 5,000 veterans and it's great to see events like this represent the people that live here.

Bill Eaton and Bill Hefley are a part of the River Valley Veterans Coalition who helped put on the event that fed and entertained the riders. They placed American flags along the memorial park that honor individual veterans for the riders to come through and pay their respects. 

"Those veterans who were lost in service or missing in action beginning with World War I, up to the present from four county area right here are listed on the wall panels," said Eaton.

"That's why we have the coalition so that we can work together on projects like this," said Hefley. 

Roulston said it's "emotions you can't explain," as to why this type of event is important, but you just "feel it in your heart." She's happy that those lost aren't forgotten.

Once at the wall in Washington, D.C. the veterans who drove the long journey to get there were finally able visit their their fellow soldiers who didn't make it home. 

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