What prompted golf course superintendent Dave Davies to get on his Harley Davidson and ride almost 3,400 miles (and back) from Ontario, California, to Washington, D.C.?

A passion for his appreciation of military personnel, including those who died in wars, those missing in action, those maimed in combat, those who were prisoners of war, those retirees who never saw action and those still on active duty. In May, Davies, the director of golf course operations at TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, California, participated in the annual Run for the Wall, a massive motorcycle outing to recognize the sacrifices and contributions made by military personnel and to keep alive the memory of POWs and MIAs.

“It was on my bucket list of things to do,” Davies says. “Now I want to do it every year. I didn’t truly understand how emotionally attached to it I would become before I went on the ride.”

It was the “vacation” of a lifetime.

Davies left Ontario on May 17 with about 500 riders. They arrived at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known as “The Wall,” in Washington on May 26. Along the way, the two-mile caravan of riders and support vehicles passed through myriad small towns and cities. Locals, knowing the riders were passing through, gathered on bridges and streets, and waved American flags to applaud them.

“It was the hardest motorcycle ride I have ever participated in,” says Davies, who has done his share. “But it was the most amazing motorcycle experience I have ever had in my life. It was overwhelming.”

Davies wears his heart on his sleeve. He is a passionate man and loves to talk, whether it’s about golf course agronomics, his favorite band The Allman Brothers, or the plight of the brave men and women who joined the armed services to protect the people of their country. Davies is the guy who celebrates Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day for all the right reasons.

The Run for the Wall was also personal for Davies. He rode in remembrance of a good friend, Major Kevin Nave, a Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2003, and his mom’s cousin, Major Michael Finley Field, a West Point Academy graduate who was killed in Vietnam in 1967.

Davies met Nave in 2001 at a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Even though they were together a short time, they hit it off. Davies and Nave kept in contact after both returned to their homes from Sturgis. And then 9/11 happened. Of course, all hell broke lose in the months following the catastrophe, including the U.S. invasion of Iraq as part of its war on terrorism. Nave was sent to Iraq as part of the military advance on Baghdad. He was killed in March 2003. The 36-year-old left behind a wife and two children.

Davies was saddened and stunned. Nave’s death changed him. Davies began to develop a deeper appreciation for those who serve or served in the military, especially those who paid the ultimate price by losing their lives.

For years, Davies has wanted to participate in the Run for the Wall. But it’s tough to get away in May when you’re a superintendent. But this year Davies was able to clear his schedule for two weeks to make the trip.

During his week with the other riders, who Davies now calls “family,” he heard their stories of why they were participating in the event and who they were honoring with the ride. Davies told his story, too.

“You understand where people are coming from,” Davies says. “To go to the wall … to see a grown man uncontrollably weep while six people are there consoling him with their arms around him … it was truly an amazing thing to be part of.”

Davies says he was just a small cog in a big wheel that was the Run for the Wall. But his journey to remember and appreciate a group of people who we often take for granted is positively inspiring.

Thanks for the ride, Dave Davies.