This is an annual demonstration for POW/MIAs and Veterans issues. It is not a parade of balding, fat, drunken bikers as sometimes is reported in the media.
I have ridden my Harley with a large contingent from my home county down to the staging area at the Pentagon, then queued up to ride into Washington DC, around the U.S. Capitol, and ultimately ending up on the west side of the city near (relatively speaking) the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. There, various dignitaries and event organizers speak and describe concerns of the day. After all, this is a demonstration, not a parade.
Will I be there this year? No. I haven’t gone in several years. Why? Well, I find that I’m better able to support vets in my community. I tend to focus my support in narrow, but I think meaningful, ways. Two of the tenants in my rental properties are veterans. I give them a break on the rent, so they can afford to live in the county where they work, and send their kids to outstanding public schools. I spend some time with a well-regarded non-profit organization that supports returning soldiers and their families in a variety of ways. The horrors of war and their experiences affect their ability to return to civilian life, so we help out with that, as needed and requested.
Further, when I have attended, our group lines up among the hundreds of thousands of others. Even to get a mid-slot in the line up, you have to get there very early. There is no shade, so a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and very comfortable boots are required. You’ll stand there for hours and hours waiting your turn to mount up on your bike and ride. Meanwhile, you look around at everyone else’s bikes and just wait. There isn’t much to do, and the wait can be six or more hours. (I’m not whining; I am just stating facts from experience.)
In the past two times I went (a few years ago), I made it to the final destination at about 4:00pm, which was well after most of the speeches had ended. It really wasn’t worth the hassle and exhaustion. The crowds are overwhelming. And I just betcha the boots will be outnumbered by the sneakers… but that’s a different story.
Finally, I’m not even in town. This blog post was written and scheduled for posting to appear today while I’m away. I couldn’t go if I wanted to. But I’ll still let out a sigh when I see throngs of bikers on the highway, or hear a Harley rumble off in the distance. I would rather be riding — anywhere — but an obligation and a promise to my mother-in-law prevents me from doing that.
Overall, the demonstration, attention, and concerns that Rolling Thunder brings to light are important. I hope everyone has a good time, rides safely, wears a helmet, and is able to voice concerns on behalf of (and pay tribute to) those who have served, and are serving, in our Armed Forces on behalf of our great country.
Oh, before I left town, my partner and I went to the cemetery, and put up a flag at my Dad’s grave. He was a veteran of WWII, and I won’t forget.