The Storm Sets In
Rolling Thunder is more than just a stormy weather condition we all love to cuddle up with a blanket to. It’s a 90-chapter-wide advocacy group that seeks to bring accountability and justice for prisoners of war and missing in action service members of any and all U.S. wars.
To Honor and Protect
Rolling Thunder’s first assembly was in 1988 with a gathering of 2, 500 men and women recruited by Ray Manzo, a former United States Marine Corps corporal.
A year prior, Manzo had visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorials in Washington, D.C. and after talking with fellow veterans, learned that American servicemen had been abandoned in Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War. Accustomed to the Marine Corps training of no man left behind, Manzo felt he compelled to do something to shine light on the issue at hand. After attending a POW/MIA vigil, Manzo was struck with the idea to host a motorcycle rally in D.C. to show the world that U.S. prisoners of war and those missing in action were still important to the country for which they served and sacrificed their freedom for.
Things quickly began setting in motion once Manzo drafted a call to action letter and began mailing it to motorcycling publications. He recruited the help of fellow veterans within the Washington D.C. area to assist him through the red tape of requirements.
Along with Cpl. Manzo, 3 other men are credited with creating Rolling Thunder: U.S. Army Sergeant Major John Holland (Ret.), Marine First Sergeant Walt Sides (Ret.) and Sergeant Ted Sampley (Ret.).
Ted Sampley’s colleague, Bob Schmitt, coined the phrase “Rolling Thunder” while staring at the Memorial Bridge and envisioning Manzo’s dream. Sampley said, “It will be like the sound of rolling thunder coming across the bridge.”
The Main Event
While Rolling Thunder hosts many meetings, demonstrations and remembrances throughout the year, the main annual event, otherwise known as the Ride for Freedom occurs the Sunday before Memorial Day. With festivities ongoing all weekend long, the actual ride begins with members making a slow ride on a dedicated, closed off route called Ride to the Wall in Washington, D.C., referring to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The riders leave the Pentagon parking lot at noon, cross the Memorial Bridge and end at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
What first began as a means to educate the general public and honor the service members that were abandoned after the Vietnam War, has evolved into a display of patriotism and salute for any and all who have defended our country.
Legacy Lives On
This year’s Ride for Freedom will be held on Sunday, May 29 in Washington D.C. The official vendor site is known as Thunder Alley and opens at 9 a.m. Promptly at noon, the 30th annual Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” will commence. Once the run is complete, police will direct riders to West Potomac Park where they will pay tribute to their fellow fallen brothers and sisters. Then, at 8 p.m., a Memorial Day concert is held at the Capitol.
The Sound of Thunder
With all that said, you might be thinking about how you’d like to attend the Ride for Freedom to support your fellow veterans (though being a veteran is not required to attend). Perhaps you live quite some distance away and riding your bike all that way is not feasible; that’s where FreightCenter can come in.
When you account for the time it will take to ride your bike to the Ride for Freedom, the money it will cost in gas and hotel expenses, and the back pain of sitting on your bike all day, you quickly realize it’s not worth the hassle.
By collaborating with experienced and vetted motorcycle carriers, FreightCenter can offer a number of different shipping solutions for getting your bike from point A to D.C. without wasting any of your precious time, all for a fraction of the cost. Save the motorcycle riding for the main event, so you can attend feeling refreshed and ready to rumble like rolling thunder.