This past Saturday, as I drove home from Tennessee, it was my privilege to ride alongside several hundred members of Rolling Thunder. The motorcyclists, most on Harley Davidson’s, rode two and three deep in the right hand lane as I passed them on the left. The traditional flags waved in the wind from the backs of their cycles, both the stars and stripes as well as the black and white POW/MIA flag, and bringing up the rear of the procession was the hearse with the Some Gave All banner. As we passed underneath bridges along I-66 North, folks stood atop, waving flags of their own. People waited along the side of the road for the processional to pass, holding up signs of support and more flags.
It probably took me somewhere between 3 and 5 miles to pass all of the bikers, and as my eyes welled with tears, I realized in that moment, I was a part of something really special. This powerful display of patriotism and devotion happens every year as chapter members of Rolling Thunder from all across the United States make their way to Washington D.C. to draw attention to soldiers left behind, now POW (Prisoners of War) or MIA (Missing in Action).The first Rolling Thunder demonstration was held on Memorial Day in 1988. The creators of the movement, Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, conceived the idea of a gathering at the nation’s capital with their fellow bikers, family members, and friends who wanted to educate people about the reality of soldiers left behind in the Vietnam War, many of them still living and imprisoned under horrific conditions (as many as 10,000) as confirmed by intelligence sightings and reports. Because the government did not appear to be doing anything about this, Rolling Thunder organized their march, insisting on acknowledgement and an account of all these American soldiers. As stated on their website, “Their arrival would be announced by the roar of their motorcycles, a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder. Hence, they would call themselves Rolling Thunder®, Inc….”
The group became a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2007. Every year they raise funds to aid servicemen (active duty and veterans) as well as their families. The group continues to serve the community in ways which include aiding homeless veterans through donations of food, clothing, and finances. They continue to raise awareness about prisoners of war and fund search missions in Southeast Asia for POW/MIA and those killed in the line of service. And this is just scratching the surface of their work and commitment to the community, veterans, and active duty soldiers.
If you have an extra moment this Memorial Day, check out the site for this extraordinary group. Whatever you’re doing today, I challenge you to take a moment to remember the service men and women for whom this day exists. Some gave all.