Local News

May 21, 2014

‘More than a name mission’

Riders bring awareness to Vietnam veterans

— Brian Floyd never knew Maj. Bobby Jones, but his name is inscribed on the side of Floyd’s motorcycle.

Floyd knows what Jones looked like and he knows his story. It’s a story Floyd ensures will never be forgotten.

Jones was 29 when he went Missing In Action (MIA) during the Vietnam War on Nov. 28, 1972. He was believed to have been in a plane crash. His remains were never recovered.

His family, who live in Dalton, is left to wonder what happened to their son and brother.

Floyd has been wearing a bracelet with Jones’ name and information and he’s been carrying his photo and story as he travels the nation from Los Angeles to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on the southern route of Run for the Wall. Two other riders, on the northern and central route, also carry Jones’ story and photo.

At stops along the route, Floyd shares Jones’ photo and story. Other riders also share photos and stories of other men who remain MIA and honor those who were killed in action. Once at the memorial, they place photos and stories on the wall and take time to remember those who have sacrificed for their country.

On Tuesday, Floyd —  along with a dozen or so other bikers — took a detour on his way to Chattanooga to meet Jones’ mother, 97-year-old Christine Jones.

They converged in her room at Royal Oaks where Christine Jones was the center of attention, snapping photos and making jokes about not knowing what to do with so many men surrounding her.

“They care about my child,” Jones said. “It was just he and the pilot. The story is that two boys stole the bodies and buried them there. They took his jacket back and put it under a tree. We got it on the 42nd day he’d been missing... I feel like it’s a hopeless case with us. (Someone) buried him, and we don’t know where he is. We can guess (what happened). That’s all we can do.”

But she is honored to know that people like Floyd and the other riders are doing what they can to keep these veterans’ memories alive.

“They don’t know my mom,” Jo Anne Shirley, Maj. Jones’ sister, said. “They just came to do this. All these guys, they have no one missing, but they care. They want to support the families.”

Floyd has been carrying Maj. Jones’ information on the road for several years now. He had to miss last year because of some problems with work.

“It’s more than a name mission,” he said. “It’s an extreme honor. It’s a shame our government hasn’t done more.”

Floyd’s first run was in 2008. He was in the Marine Corps and thought the run was a “neat idea” and a good way to honor the “pain and sacrifice” the families have faced for many years.

“It’s a very humbling experience, and an incredible honor,” he said. “Meeting these families helps us accomplish our mission.”

Shirley, a former long-time president of the National League of POW/MIA Families, said the organization couldn’t do the work they do without people like the riders supporting them.

“It’s not just about my brother,” she said, adding she has “great admiration” for the riders. “We couldn’t continue to do what we do without them.”

Maj. Jones’ believed crash site has been excavated three times. In 2008, on one of the excavations, his blood chit was found. A blood chit is a paper with the soldier’s identification number and a message in several languages.

“Is it fair to do my case again? If there are others they haven’t gotten to?” Shirley asked. “It has been an incredible journey. We’ve helped other families and been blessed in so many ways — even though we don’t have an answer.”

Pam Cain’s father, Col. Oscar Mauterer, went missing in Laos in 1966. He was an Air Force pilot. Cain is a board member for the National League of POW/MIA Families and has taken trips to Asia searching for answers. She and Shirley spent several weeks together in Southeast Asia trying to help families get answers to the whereabouts of their missing loved ones.

“Jo Anne is a model for me,” Cain said. “She’s a lady, but a tiger. She knows how to get things done. ... Mrs. Jones has been an icon in our league for so many years.”

Cain rides along with the Run for the Wall each year, and she’s glad to be a part of raising awareness, not just of her father’s story, but of other veterans as well.

“I do it because their mission is similar to mine,” she said. “It’s an honor.”

Cain said the group goes to veterans hospitals, schools and other organizations during their ride to talk about what they do and why they do it.

“We also say thank you to veterans,” she said. “For me, it’s a chance to thank those who served with my dad. It recharges my battery. I get more than I give.”

It also reminds Cain she’s not alone in her struggle for answers, and that’s a big reason the riders say they participate in the run each year. She said one portion of the run is about outreach, connecting with veterans and their families.

“It’s amazing what the run does for families,” Cain said. “I want them to know they are not alone. People do care what’s happening. It’s a great time of year for me.”

For Joe Hudson, the ride is especially humbling.

“I came home,” he said. “I wasn’t forgotten.”

Hudson, who served in the Army, was a POW in the Iraq war in 2003. The 507th Maintenance Company was attacked and they were held captive. Jessica Lynch received national attention as a member of the group.

For two days, Hudson endured physical abuse, he said. Twenty-two days later, Hudson and the others in his unit were rescued.

“I’ve never been so happy to see a Marine,” he joked.

A month after his discharge from the Army, Hudson began riding in the run.

“It has been a very healing experience,” Hudson said.

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