By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 14, 2013 1:50 AM
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Volk talks about why he and other members of the Guardian Brotherhood motorcycle club are participating in the Wall That Heals escort detail Tuesday.
Vietnam veteran Jim Brewer said he is riding Tuesday to honor all veterans -- and his own brothers and sisters in arms.
His consciousness finally regained, Brian Volk begins searching for survivors -- dismissing his own injuries as he barrels toward the epicenter of the terrorist attack that had just crippled one of the buildings tucked inside an American military compound in Saudi Arabia.
Moments later, he comes across two of his comrades.
Both are fading.
"One, we took out on a door and one we took out on a blanket. The one guy, I actually had my finger in his heart because the glass had completely severed his ... I mean, he was completely open," Volk said. "I was there when he closed his eyes for the last time. I will never forget that and I will carry his burden for the rest of my life. So whatever I have to do to empower him and glorify his family, that's my job."
They kick-start their motorcycles for different reasons -- the hundreds expected to escort the Wall That Heals from South Boston, Va., to Wayne Community College Tuesday afternoon.
But each said they find solace along the open road -- that riding on behalf of a fallen hero is simply another opportunity to serve their nation.
Mark Johnson can tell you, to the day, how long he wore his Air Force uniform.
"Twenty years, eight days," he said with a grin.
But get him talking about why he rides, and he becomes a bit more somber.
"It's about remembering friends, honoring vets and the brotherhood of it all," he said. "It's therapy, I guess. It kind of helps me."
And it keeps the memory of a particular Korean War veteran -- the man whose motorcycle Johnson will ride during the Wall That Heals escort detail -- alive.
"I kind of feel like, when I'm riding, that he's still out there on that road with me," Johnson said. "It's kind of like his memory living on."
Retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. William Hile and his wife, Elizabeth, ride for a veteran, too.
But their hero is a young Marine sergeant who is still serving -- their son, Eric.
"God forbid, if anything happened to my own son, I would hope that somebody would be there for him -- to honor him," Mrs. Hile said. "They deserve it."
Her husband agreed.
"It's important that we make sure (veterans) know that what they did was warranted," he said. "That they are not forgotten."
There was a time when Jim Brewer felt forgotten.
The Vietnam veteran was at a parade in his uniform when someone in the crowd threw a rock at his back.
"Nothing is gonna heal it," he said of the way he and his comrades were treated upon returning from the war. "But (The Wall That Heals coming to Goldsboro), I think it's a nice welcome home for them.
"I feel like I need to do this for all the folks who didn't come back and all the folks who came back with problems -- physical and mental. I just need to honor my brothers and sisters. And even the vets today -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- I consider them a part of it, too. Even though this is for Vietnam, we need to honor all of our vets, all those who didn't come back, POWs, MIAs -- all of them."
For although he rides, in particular, for "the two guys we left at Khobar Towers," each time he hits the open road, it's really for all who have served -- and those who man posts across the world today.
"To me, it's the ultimate honor," he said. "The ultimate way to pay these guys back."
Those who wish to witness Volk and his fellow bikers escort The Wall That Heals down Wayne Memorial Drive Tuesday are asked to line the road, from Starbucks to Wayne Community College, by 2:45 p.m.
Those riding are sure it won't disappoint.
"I have no idea who's coming," Volk said. "I just know there are gonna be a whole crapload of motorcycles ... and when we roll that bridge at 3 o'clock ... it's gonna be something to see."