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Rolling Thunder 2011

By Lulu

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Be Sure to scroll to the bottom for the 4 Rolling Thunder Cams

A biker’s typical dream trip is to ride to Sturgis, Myrtle Beach or Daytona. But I am here to tell you the most important trip to make in your life as a biker is the Rolling Thunder Ride to the Wall. I am not the only person who feels this way; I was joined by over a half million bikers for this moving event. And I don’t mean moving such as on 2 wheels, I mean emotionally overwhelming!

Micah and I left with Rolling Thunder Chapter 8 from Daytona on Thursday morning, traveled 500 miles and spent the night in Smithfield, North Carolina, only to rise bright and early to make DC by midday. Traffic in DC on weekdays was more than challenging, it bordered on terrifying, but once the working DC crowd left town for the weekend finding our way around was much less stressful.

My friend Ken told me the term Rolling Thunder originated from the actual Vietnam War and I was surprised to find the following: (Operation Rolling Thunder: The longest air campaign in American military history, from March 1965 to November 1968 during the Vietnam War, when combined U.S. forces flew more than two million sorties and dropped over one million tons of bombs on North Vietnam. (Oxford’s Dictionary of Military History). My assumption was the name came from the rumble of the motorcycles, which indeed is what the Ride to the Wall’s name is known for. Rolling Thunder was formed to keep POW/MIA’s in the spotlight. In so doing they have lobbied for veteran and military needs and been instrumental in important legislation.

[singlepic id=1517 w=320 h=240 float=left]The first night a candlelight service was held at the Vietnam wall with survivors of Vietnam military men and women. The rains cleared just in time for the event and made a somber evening even more emotional, as a sign was posted near the walkway declaring the rain was simply the heavens crying for the loss of our soldiers. Women (mothers of deceased military) dressed in white marched into the center of the wall where prayers were said. They are stoic women who after so many years no longer weep at the sight of the wall. I, on the other hand, balled like a baby as the bagpiper entered leading in the women. In the aftermath of the rain there was a slight mist, the torch they carried cast an eerie glow as the crowd parted and the procession of women in white entered. People took rubbings of the names of their loved ones or friends. All types of people milled around. There was a lot of hugging.

Day 2 was even more emotionally exhausting. We met at the Marriott Hotel to spend the morning with children of deceased military men and women. The bikers parked in the circular drive of the hotel and allowed throngs of children to sit on the bikes and rev their engines and toot their horns.

400 + children! For a moment these children forgot the reason they were here, a camp for survivors, TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program Seminar). This time the shirts were Red for survivors which said “Good Grief Camp” on them and blue for their mentors. Most mentors were active young military men and women. I wondered how they could look at the faces of these beautiful children and not fear for their own lives.

[singlepic id=1535 w=320 h=240 float=left]The reality of war was even more apparent here than seeing all those names on the Wall. Here I was watching little ones that lost parents too soon! Families forever altered because they choose to serve! One young mother with 4 children was asked by one of the Rolling Thunder women if she was receiving help. The mother answered, “My family helps as much as they can.” She then started sobbing and said that her in-laws have nothing to do with her or the children because they blame her for their son’s death because he was in the military to support his family. Her oldest son around 7 years old held the baby and watched with huge blue eyes as his mother fell apart, I could sense he had already become the father figure for his siblings. This was almost too much to bear.

I had to focus on the happy faces of children with grumpy old bikers, thrilled at being able to climb aboard the bikes and forget their problems for a minute or two. The thought hit me this is the reason many of us love bikes…freedom from our problems. You can’t worry about much while dodging cars that seem to be aiming for us and the sound of the motor lulling our souls into a state of quietness.

Day 3 The 24th Ride to the Wall was much more like a good Irish wake, here the festivities began. With so many bikes (3 parking lots of the Pentagon were full) all decked out in American flags waiting for the chance to parade into DC to let everyone know, despite it all, we still love our country and those who have served and continue to serve in the military. AND THAT THEY WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN! It took over 3.5 hours to have 4 bikes abreast travel the short distance from the Pentagon to the Wall. Totally unbelievable!

Two things really left quite an impression on me from this trip. The first was that the Vietnam era Vets are totally supportive of our young vets. They are intent on not allowing what happened to them to ever happen again. Second, I was surprised by how many young people (even on crotch rockets) participated in this weekend. I asked many of these young kids why they were there, some replied they are active military, some said they had loved ones lost in Vietnam and others said they know the cost of freedom. I suppose the events of 9/11 taught a younger generation our liberties are not guaranteed. I wish some of the namby pamby left wingers were as smart as some of the kids I met this weekend.

Let me close by saying it was the trip of my life. 2200 miles later, I value my freedom and the cost of it more than ever. The Ride to the Wall should be something everyone that owns a bike does, you will be glad you did and you feel proud to be an American.

Rolling Thunder 2011 Cam 1

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Rolling Thunder 2011 Cam 2

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Rolling Thunder 2011 Cam 3

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Rolling Thunder 2011 Cam 4

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