I am amazed at the people I meet on a daily basis! Today I met a true “man on a mission.” His mission? To visit every county in the lower forty eight states, and to do it on a motorcycle. Of course, the first question is “Why?” Why would anyone want to take on such an endeavor? His goal is to document at least one veterans’ memorial in each of the 3,509 counties.
When he first got interested in veterans’ monuments in 2003, it was just a way to get out of the house, and since his family has had a man in uniform since the American Revolution, this was a way to honor them. However, as he traveled around he was shocked at the number of people who didn’t even know their town had a veterans’ memorial. Instead, he started asking “Where is the court house?” as this is very likely where the monument would be. “You can’t miss it, there’s a cannon in the yard” he says. “They have lived in this town or this county all of their life; they’ve been by the county courthouse hundreds of times, they have seen that cannon and it’s never clicked why that old cannon is sitting in the yard.” Especially today, when we have a volunteer force and we have only about one percent of our citizens are serving in the military, we really need to be aware of what they’re doing and what we’re asking of them.”
To date, Wonnacott has visited 17 states, 800 counties and has documented over 1,000 memorials. Although Wonnacott has funded this mission on his VA pension, he says he can’t keep it up. How can you help? Motorcycle maintenance is a big item, one of the biggest costs being tires. Fortunately, he got a windfall from Dunlop Tires, who has committed to provide tires as long as his journey lasts. He said “I must rely upon the assistance of strangers. No, let's say that I have to look to fellow citizens that want to help me honor our military veterans. Do you have a back yard where I may pitch my tent for the night? Or, maybe, do you have an empty couch to sleep upon? I'm having a four inch embroidered patch made as a thank you to those that pitch in $20 or more. Sew it onto your vest and, if you have the opportunity, ride along with me to a memorial or two. Take pride in the service and sacrifices of our veterans, help me tell the younger generation what was done by those named on so many monuments around the United States. Remember and honor those that served and those that did not return home.”
When he was asked why he didn’t buy a car to make his journey as it would be so much more comfortable than a motorcycle his response really hit home, “There is no discomfort that I endure that we do not ask of our veterans serving today. I have a choice, they don’t.” After his ride is completed he plans on donating his motorcycle to Honda, and perhaps document his travels in a book.
You can follow his journey or make a donation at www.ridearoundarmerica.com.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum