On Sunday, this past Memorial Day weekend, thousands of motorcyclists from across the nation flooded Washington, D.C., for the annual Memorial Day weekend tradition Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder have been honoring the US military each year for the past 30 years with this ride. The ride is meant “to educate, facilitate and never forget those service members that were abandoned after the Vietnam War”. What started in 1987 with only about 2500 riders, it has now grown to almost 900,000.
This Memorial Day, the Rolling Thunder ride was a little bit diffent than at least the last 8 years. The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson joined Rolling Thunder in their historical ride. What an honor for Rolling Thunder to have Tillerson join them on their ride to make a statement about POW/MIA accountability of all wars, reminding the government, the media and the public: “We Will Not Forget!
H/T Western Journalism:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joined the almost one million motorcyclists on Sunday as a rider in the 30th annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle demonstration in Washington D.C. in honor of Memorial Day.
The Rolling Thunder annual event, established in 1987, quite literally makes noise in the nation’s capitol to raise awareness for American prisoners of war and soldiers deemed missing in action.
Tillerson, sporting a leather motorcycle vest, was pictured posing alongside some of the estimated 900,000 riders as the caravan was preparing to depart.
A video posted on Twitter shows the nation’s top diplomat intermingling with riders as he was preparing his bike for the ride.
The Diplomatic Security Service posted photos of the event on its Facebook page.
“DSS special agents provided security for Secretary Tillerson today at #RollingThunder2017 in Washington, D.C. The Secretary and two of the special agents assigned to his DSS Protective Detail rode motorcycles in the event. #honoringvets,” the post read.
Tillerson was pictured standing alongside Rolling Thunder, Inc. founder Artie Muller and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David J. Shulkin as opening remarks were delivered at the Pentagon on Sunday.
The riders departed from the Pentagon early Sunday towards the National Mall. Close to one million riders rode down Constitution Ave. and Independence Ave.
First time Rolling Thunder rider Gene Lambert rode in honor of his brother, who was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetary.
“Lesley Stephen Lambert, he received a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. He was a career soldier and served in Vietnam,” Lambert said.
Gene’s wife, Ashley Lambert, said the feeling of participating in the motorcycle caravan was “awe-inspiring.”
“Very awe-inspiring. Awesome,” she said, holding back tears. “As soon as we saw the Korean Memorial, I broke down. It was great to see the community outpouring of support. I’m so proud of my country right now.”
Vietnam veteran David Driver, who has participated in Rolling Thunder for 10 years, said he and his friends rode from southern Pennsylvania to partake in the event.
“We want to try and prove a point [that] Vietnam wasn’t a policing, it was a war, [and] we would like to bring our boys home,” Driver said.
Watching the video, even though his ride with Rolling Thunder was a strong sign of support by this administration and Tillerson himself, Tillerson was very low key – (although he did toot his horn on his bike around the 1:49 mark on the video).
This ride was was about the young men and women who died while serving our country so that we may continue to have the freedoms that many often take for granted.
“You’re never going to know what it’s like to have that brotherhood of veterans, unless you actually serve,” says US Army Veteran Jay Weingart. “With us, it goes deeper.” And with it, Rolling Thunder, now 30 years old.
“When I came across that Memorial Bridge, I saw all this in front of me, I was in awe,” Weingart recalls. “It’s a big part of who I am, the group of people I ride with, and the thousands of military veteran bikers that come down here every year.”
There is camaraderie and closeness among these veterans, many, from the Vietnam era.
Their number one mission is to keep the POW-MIA Issue alive.
Artie Muller, the co-founder of Rolling Thunder believes there are still about 80,000 military personnel unaccounted for, from previous conflicts; 3200 from the Korean War, alone.
Muller says he want to put pressure on the Trump administration to become more active in that search.
“We want President Trump to sit down with some of these countries that we know had live POWs,” he says. “And not just live American POWs.”
As Memorial Day Weekend passes by, I hope everyone remembered the fallen and that they are not forgotten. I know Rolling Thunder will not forget them as it is their mission to keep the POW/MIA issue alive. This year however, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, will have a special memory and ride to remember as well. May he do everything he can, along with this administration to continue to support the efforts of Rolling Thunder and help with the mission of POW/MIA.
On a side note, POW’s have a special place in my heart. I had an uncle, who served in the Army, First Sgt. John M. Jebb of the 2/123 Field Artillery. His career spans across 39 years. He joined the Army in 1943. After serving in the Eurpoean Theater for less than a year, John was captured by the Nazis. Despite two escapes, Jebb remained in a Prisoner-of-War camp until his liberation April 6, 1945. He was sent home to recuperate and shortly thereafter. However, due to his strong sense of duty and honor, he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard where he stayed until he retired in 1983. He passed away shortly thereafter.
I can not even imagine the horrors of war he must have experienced as a POW. Nor can I imagine what my grandparents must have went through having a son missing in action for 2 years, as a POW. We were all fortunate that he made it home, knowing many did not ever come home.
If you want to know more about Rolling Thunder and their mission to keep POW/MIA issue alive click here. As their song on their webpage states:
“We take these bikes and do what’s right…fight to live….live to ride….Rolling Thunder! …Roll on!”
(pictured – U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers salutes the Rolling Thunder)