The largest gathering of motorcyclists isn't found among the sands of Daytona, nor in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
It is found on the Sunday before Memorial Day, appropriately in our nation's capitol.
Police and organizers expect close to a million motorcyclists and their supporters to arrive in Washington DC for the 23rd Annual Rolling Thunder Memorial Day “Ride for Freedom” demonstration.
Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) will ride at the head of the procession and speak at the Reflecting Pool Program immediately following the ride. Forbes was invited to participate in the events by Rolling Thunder for his commitment to veterans’ issues in Congress.
At it's heart, Rolling Thunder is not a rally, nor is it a charity run. It was started by a small group of veterans to bring attention to the plight of American POW's and MIA's still living in captivity, most notably in Viet Nam.
That small core, namely Artie Muller, Ray Manzo, John Holland, Walt Sides and Ted Sampley and a few others scattered across the country, organized the first ride which drew approximately 2500 riders. The term Rolling Thunder was chosen because,
"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" a title that would endure time and be trademarked in 1990." Rolling Thunder Website
A national organization has grown out of this protest ride which works 12 months out of the year advocating and/or co-authored legislation to improve the POW/MIA issue, veterans' benefits, concerns and interests
The group says it's major function according to its mission statement is
to publicize the POW-MIA issue. To educate the public of the fact that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all past wars. To help correct the past and to protect the future veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners Of War/Missing In Action. We are committed to helping American veterans from all wars. Rolling Thunder, Inc. is a non-profit organization and everyone donates his or her time because they believe in the POW/MIA issue.
Membership is not limited to motorcyclists. For more info about joining or what you can do to help, visit the Rolling Thunder National Website