Did you know that since World War I over 86,000 military members have been unaccounted for following battle? To me, that number is unacceptable. These men and women were either killed or missing in action and their remains have not been returned home or respectfully buried. In May, I took a vacation to proudly ride my Harley Davidson motorcycle in the Run for the Wall from Ontario, California, to Arlington National Cemetery to place a wreath of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I rode in honor of a local, deceased Vietnam veteran, Daniel Piencikowski, and placed his placard on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. He was an integral part of the Warrior Resource Center and I was proud to honor him throughout the ride. I had the honor of being one of the 400 new riders who was allowed to escort a memorial Run for the Wall wreath through Arlington National Cemetery, and witnessed the honor guard place the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This was a memorable experience.
The Run for the Wall is an annual event that raises awareness for all veterans who have served the U.S., and rides for those who can’t. The participants also performed another service at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Another memory, was in Williams, Arizona, where I was assigned the duties of taking a POW flag and book in honor of PFC Gary Lee Hall who was missing in action (MIA) in Vietnam in 1967. My job was to get as many signatures in the book as possible throughout the ride. The book and flag will be presented to PFC Hall’s family in the coming weeks.
In D.C., I joined the Rolling Thunder event to bring awareness and accountability for POWs and MIAs left behind. It’s important for the public to never forget those individuals who have not returned home. Both of these events were amazing experiences and I am glad I had these experiences.
As a proud U.S. Naval Reserves veteran, I am grateful my role as county commissioner puts me in the position to help local veterans. Also, I am grateful to live in a county and region that is supportive of our military members, families, and veterans. Montrose County continues to work with our partner organizations—Welcome Home Alliance for Veterans and the VA Medical Services in Grand Junction—to help veterans receive the benefits they earned. Montrose County is proud to employ a Veteran Services Officer, Sheldon Smith, to assist veterans specifically with these benefits. He assists not only Montrose County, but Ouray County veterans as well.
Smith recently attending a training in the mountain region that qualified him to be a mental health first aid trainer. There is such a large need for mental health services for all of our community members and I hope these classes will help provide others tools to assist with a mental health crisis. Classes will be open to the public and are designed to teach community members how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders in the community. Stay tuned for more information on scheduling.
Earlier this week, I had the honor of attending the Salute to Armed Forces Festival in Delta featuring the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. I honored to perform in the honor guard and the 21 gun salute to honor all veterans. If you have the opportunity, the festival ends Sunday morning with a pancake breakfast and closing ceremony at noon. The last thing I want to mention is that Flag Day is June 14. Don’t forget that Montrose County offers a U.S. flag disposal box in county office at 317 South 2nd Street. I work with the Warrior Resource Center and local Boy Scouts to honor and retire the flags. Please take the time to thank a veteran today and God Bless America!
Roger Rash is a Montrose County commissioner.