'A Mission, Not a Joy Ride'

May 26, 2011

Nicholas Carpenter – a staff sergeant killed by a landmine in August 1970 – is among the 1,100 names on the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial. James Logsden, of Attica, Ind., served with Carpenter in the 9th Infantry Division. Logsden stepped on a landmine fashioned from a 155mm artillery shell. It exploded, injuring him, killing Carpenter and wounding four others, Logsden said.

“He was the farthest from the explosion but shrapnel got him in the head, killing him instantly,” Logsden said.

“Nick and I were just beginning to become really close friends. It was a tough thing for that to happen that day. There were only 13 of us, and six were wounded. It took out the whole patrol.”

As a result of the explosion Logsden’s legs were amputated, and he is confined to a wheelchair.

“It kinda ruins your whole day,” Logsden said, laughing.

He now runs a nonprofit that helps homeless veterans in Indiana.

Logsden has long been a supporter of the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial and was present on the day it was dedicated in 1988.

“This is where I poured a lot of thoughts about what happened that day,” Logsden said. “I tried to cure a lot of things that were going on.”

Logsden was one of more than 450 veterans and motorcycle enthusiasts who visited the memorial Wednesday. The ceremony was part of a 10-day bike ride from California to Washington, D.C., known as “Run to the Wall.”

The journey began on May 18 and will end at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., Friday, according to Harry “Attitude” Steelman, central route coordinator for the event. The riders encountered wind, rain and snow on the journey so far but arrived in Kentucky with sunny skies.

The bikers were about 100 miles from Joplin, Mo., when a devastating tornado killed more than 100 there on Sunday, Steelman said.

An estimated 20,000 will ride their motorcycles around the memorial in a procession more than 8 miles long Friday, said Garth Vinson, Kentucky coordinator for Run to the Wall.

Run to the Wall has four goals, Steelman said:
>Serving as a healing experience for veterans who suffer emotional wounds
>Calling for an accounting of all prisoners-of-war and soldiers classified as “missing in action” in Southeast Asia
>Honoring American war dead
>Supporting all active duty members of the military

“This is a mission, not a joy ride; we are not out for a big party,” Vinson said. “The guys feel when they are in Run to the Wall they are on a mission to bring veterans’ issues to the front.”

Several state and local officials spoke at the ceremony Wednesday, including Frankfort Mayor Gippy Graham; Ken Lucas, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs; Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville; and Larry Arnett, deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources.

“The cause for which you ride is noble,” said Arnett, who served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

Arnett also gave a tour of the Kentucky memorial and explained how the sundial casts a shadow on the name of each veteran on the day they were killed.

This is the 23rd year for Run to the Wall and despite continued economic woes Vinson said turnout was higher than expected.

A second group of 150 motorcycle riders from Task Force Omega, a similar group focused on POW/MIA issues, also visited the Kentucky memorial Wednesday afternoon.