Rolling Thunder XXI is a comprehensive, three-day program that began on May 23rd and ends today, Sunday, May 25, 2008, taking place at the Lincoln Memorial and around the National Mall in Washington, DC. Today, I participated in Rolling Thunder with a Yellow Ribbon/Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) sponsored trip. This is the second time I have attended this particular affair; as the wife of a wounded Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veteran, there is something about the roar and rumble of Harleys riding in support of the troops, particularly since many of the bikers are veterans.

A few years ago, I naively believed that Rolling Thunder just referred to a group of bikers riding through downtown Washington, DC. I was so wrong; Rolling Thunder is a charitable and politically active organization extremely dedicated to our soldiers and veterans. In fact “the major function of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. is to publicize POW-MIA issues: to educate the public that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war-missing in action.” (www.rollingthunder1.com). The organization is accordingly committed to helping American veterans from all wars as its supports member advocacy for our troops, POW/MIA’s, and their families.

This morning, at a half past ten, a group of wounded soldiers and Marines, along with my husband and I, left WRAMC to head downtown for the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom parade. The parade is held to pay homage to America’s vets, specifically the POWs and MIAs from all wars. Before the bus departed, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, also a fellow Ride for Freedom biker, gave a brief speech discussing the day’s significance. The bus, with full police escort, then departed towards the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool (recall Forrest Gump yelling for his Jenny). At about 11:15 am, we met Rolling Thunder representatives under a reserved tent directly in front of the Lincoln Memorial to review the logistics and how to get to Rolling Thunder Alley (a strip where military and war memorabilia and gifts are sold). Afterwards, I went to find a shaded tree to await the Ride of Freedom parade of bikers.

At noon, the Rolling Thunder Ride of Freedom parade commenced. What a sight and sound this was! Today, my experience with Rolling Thunder was even more poignant than I had imagined. During the parade, many veterans in town for the ride told stories of Vietnam as they listened to my husband speak of his experience in OIF, his injuries, and his recovery. Vietnam veterans, OIF/OEF veterans, and others who support the sacrifices of the troops and their families joined in the event. Rolling Thunder members, from as far away as California and Texas, rode into town to participate in this special, wondrous occasion. Later in the afternoon, actors John Amos “Men in Trees,” “Good Times” and Robert Patrick “Terminator 2, “The X-Files” gave heartfelt speeches to support the veterans and mingled with the WRAMC soldiers. This is a day that will always be memorable to me and my husband.

In addition to this spectacular event, one might ask: what else does Rolling Thunder do? They do a hell of a lot. I would encourage all to visit their website (www.rollingthunder1.com) to read all of the wonderful activities and services the organization provides. On this Memorial Day weekend, it is comforting to know that some people take the holiday seriously, and are truly celebrating an occasion that calls for more than barbeque and beer.

Pamela Stokes Eggleston currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Military Spouses for Change (www.militaryspousesforchange.com ) and President Elect of the University of Maryland University College Alumni Association (www.umucalumni.org ). She is also an Editorial Contributor for Military Spouse Press (www.milspousepress.com ).

Be Sociable, Share!