History

History - May 26, 1988 started out much like any other day in the town of Rainelle, West Virginia. Local folks had no idea that by the end of the day a bond would be formed that would join their town so closely to the concerns of military service veterans from across our nation. A group of approximately 50 motorcycle riders (veterans themselves or veterans’ family members) were traveling to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness for the live POW’s. Traveling east on Interstate 64, their advance road guards came upon the tollbooths of the WV Turnpike. These advance individuals wanted to pay the tolls for all the riders, which were to follow, but were refused. Rather than fight the traffic snarl at the tollbooths, the riders decided to travel east on U.S. Route 60 from Charleston to I-64 at Sam Black Church.

 
This small group of riders was to meet up with other motorcyclists in Washington to draw attention to the POW’s plight. Indeed, they attracted attention! A local police department radioed ahead to Rainelle’s Chief of Police, the late Arnold Spitzer, and informed him of the size and purpose of the group of riders who were headed his way. Being the patriot that he was Chief Spitzer called the school to see if the children could be released to wave the riders through. Rainelle School’s Principal at that time, William "Toby" Harris, obliged.  
 
The children were excited and stood outside on the school lawn waving and cheering as the riders came into town! The riders waved and honked their horns. They were concerned that they had interrupted a local parade. As they continued to travel through Rainelle, they realized they were the parade! They turned around and went back to the school and from those humble beginnings, a bond was formed that has grown annually. Each year the students get a hands on Social Studies lesson and the veterans get a real hero’s welcome.
 
Since those early years, Run For The Wall, some of who ride from California for the same purpose, and Task Force Omega of Kentucky have joined those original riders known as Rolling Thunder. They arrive at the Rainelle Elementary School where they are still greeted with waves and cheering from students and local adults alike.
 
We welcome the individuals from these groups who will be in Rainelle this year to take part in our Memorial Day weekend’s events. Over the past 20 years, this dedicated group has found Rainelle to be a haven of good will and friendship that can only be described as an extended family atmosphere. The friendship and concern they’ve been able to experience from the citizens of Rainelle have touched the hearts of many of them in ways they had never experienced upon their return from military service. They’ve made monetary donations to the local school which aided in the purchase of much needed playground equipment, books and other supplies for the school.
 
In the fall of 2004, Danny "Greasy" Belcher, the Executive Director of Task Force Omega of KY, contacted Monica Venable (another former Principal at Rainelle School) about the possibility of Rainelle’s hosting a West Virginia Veterans’ Reunion over the Memorial Day weekend. His concern for the POW/MIA issues in this country had led him to join with Ray Manzo (founder of Rolling Thunder) in 1987 in an effort to educate people on the plight of our POW/MIA’s. He felt the rally at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington had possibly slipped away from its original intent. He recalled that Manzo had said in the early years that they should probably go to other towns each year to get their message out. After an initial planning meeting in Oct. 2004, plans were formulated for Rainelle to host the 1st Annual West Virginia Veterans’ Reunion and "L.Z. Rainelle" was born.
 
After 2005's Reunion, we were convinced that there was adequate support to justify not only continuing but expanding our efforts. In 2006 we hosted "The Moving Wall" from Vietnam Combat Veterans, LTD in L’Anse, Michigan. In 2007 and 2008 we hosted "The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall" from Brevard County, Florida. For 2009, we hosted "The Quilt of Tears" and for 2010 we welcomed "Bringing Home The Wall" and "Through The Eyes" for our 6th year of the L.Z. Rainelle - West Virginia Veterans' Reunion. For 2011, 2012 and 2013 we hosted “Bringing Home The Wall” and “The Quilt Of Tears.” For our 10th Anniversary in 2014, we were very pleased to again host “The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall” and the Vietnam Veterans of America – West Virginia State Council’s “WV Wall” which honors all West Virginians who lost their lives or are still missing from the Vietnam War.For 2015, we welcomed the return of John Hosier Jr.’s “Through The Eyes” display.  For 2016 we will again sponsor the Vietnam Veterans of America – West Virginia State Council’s “WV Wall” and also the return of “The Quilt of Tears.”
West Virginians have long been among the largest per capita percentage when military service records are reviewed. Veterans’ statistics show that we have had the following numbers of veterans serving since World War I. WWI - 58,053 WWII - 233,985 Korean Conflict - 112,000 Vietnam Era - 36,578 Gulf War - over 12,000
 
West Virginians are a proud and patriotic people and nowhere is our patriotism more evident than in the sacrifices that our young men and women have made in conjunction with their military service. In celebration of these brave soldiers, we invite you to join us in a tribute to their service and a memorial to their sacrifices. May we always remember that their service to our country is best reflected in the words of our West Virginia State Motto: …
 
Mountaineers Are Always Free 
Interested in learning more?
 
 
For further information about this exciting event, please contact:
Monica Venable - LZ Rainelle Chairperson - 304-660-8172 (cell)
J.W. Puckett - LZ Rainelle Sect’y / Treasurer - 304-438-9134 (home) / 304-890-2928 (cell)
Rainelle Moose Lodge 304-438-9002
 
 L.Z. Rainelle :: West Virginia Veterans’ Reunion, Inc :: PO Box 653 :: Rainelle, WV 25962