Rolling Thunder Rides Again in Washington DC

After the end of the Vietnam War, many veterans and their families anguished over missing POWs and MIAs. Veterans who had fought in combat, protecting their comrades and being protected by them, vainly sought answers to what had happened to their lost friends. Families who prayed for their lost young family members received no information to relieve the angst driven faith that their loved one was still alive. Dreams became nightmares and the anvil of hope was gradually sworn away by the hammer of time, each second, each minute, each hour a small loss of memory, and a small loss of faith in a nation’s promise.

For 17 years the push and pull of hope and despair dominated these families and veterans. Again and again they asked for help, for the vision to understand the need that had taken so much from them, for the knowledge that would provide closure for their loss. They lived darkly in their homes, alone in their despair, tormented by memories that were gradually receding.

Ray Manzo, a former United States Marine, first learned that US personnel had been abandoned in Southeast Asia in 1987. His training cried for action. He and a group of three other veterans organized and found the truth in the matter. Many soldiers had been left behind. These men could not rest. Action was required. Being avid motorcyclists, they envisioned a possibility and wrote or faxed letters to every motorcycle finance magazine they could find ( What is motorcycle finance? find out here) , stating that they would not rest until justice was found for the missing. They wrote more letters to those who responded to their plea for action. They visited families of the missing. They even cajoled legislators who would not listen.

Finally, in 1988, with all parties in agreement and supported by many motorcycle finance companies , they coalesced and arrived in Washington, DC on the Sunday before Memorial Day on their Harley-Davison motorcycles in protest. They did so loudly. The roars of the bikes reverberated throughout the capital to say in one voice—“Bring them back.” The sound was so intense it rattled windows and made people pay attention. Slogans were hung, speeches were made, and cheers run throughout the capital, but nothing was a strong or as effective as the roar of motorcycle engines. They were heard. The government renewed efforts to find the fate of its missing soldiers. Families and veterans rejoiced that, at least, something was being done.

Since that time this event has been called Rolling Thunder after the bombing campaign against North Vietnam from 1965 to 1968. By 1993 legislation was in place requiring proof before notice of a soldier being killed in action could be sent to a family. More and more remains were found and verified in Vietnam and its surrounding nations and brought home relieving families and allowing closure.

Over 100 Rolling Thunder Organizations now exist within the United States and are often funded by motorcycle finance corporations. In 2006 over 378,000 riders participated in the Ride To The Wall event annually held on the Sunday before Memorial Day. Rolling Thunder will ride to the Vietnam War Memorial Wall every one of those Sundays. Their purpose has expanded beyond the memory of the Vietnam War to include all conflicts. Their purpose is to make sure that all of America’s heroes are accounted for, their families sacrifice recognized, and their remains brought home to rest.

Rolling Thunder rode again on May 25, 2014 and will ride again next year, and the next, and the next, and the next . . . Even those who do not wish to listen will hear them. Our missing soldiers deserve no less.