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Rolling Thunder – Run For The Wall

“The Red Capes are Coming! The Red Capes are Coming!” was a snarky exclamation from Lex Luther from the movie Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice.  He was referring to the upcoming battle of superheroes in the movie. The real superheroes of this world  who fight wars for their nation, leaving behind their family in the hope of fulfilling their duty and love for the country are sometimes forgotten after the cause. It all started when Ray Manzo, a Marine Veteran was bothered when he saw reports of live prisoners of war (P.O.W) and missing in action (MIA) who were left behind when the Vietnam War ended in 1987.  Many of America’s military were killed or missing in action and their remains were not being returned home or respectfully buried. This was contrary to his Marine Corps training to leave no man behind.   He along with his fellow veterans Sides, Holland and Sampley came up with an idea of motorcycle run for P.O.W / MIA situation. He sent letters to several organizations to join him and find their troops.  The only ones who answered him were bikers. On Memorial Day weekend, they envisioned the arrival of bikes coming across the memorial bridge and thought that it would sound like “Rolling Thunder”. In 1988, the first run of Rolling Thunder began with only 25000 motorcycles and riders demanding that the government should account for all P.O.W/MIA’s. The legacy continues with over a million riders and spectators growing every year to become the world’s largest single day motorcycle event!

I got an opportunity to attend this event when I visited U.S as part of my official trip. We had a long weekend due to memorial day and I took this opportunity to visit Washington D.C. A day before Memorial Parade, I saw a heavy rush of bikers coming from all over the place. My tour guide kept yelling at the top of his voice about the Washington Monument but my attention kept diverting on huge roaring sounds coming from the streets.  I was astonished to see the beauty and design of some of the bikes.  Few of them even looked like ones I saw in Batman movies. But the color was deep blood red and therefore I could not say “Yes, Mr Wayne it does come in black!” Never before have I seen such stunning designs of Harley Davidson.

The veterans headed towards Pentagon. On the day of Rolling Thunder they run through the streets of D.C. and eventually end at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  The best viewing spots are along the Arlington Memorial Bridge and Constitution Avenue.

After the ride for the freedom, the bikers took an opportunity to meet old and new friends, pay respect at the memorials and participate in the Memorial Day Events.  The high point of the rally is that there were significantly large number of people to support the bikers on the streets. They waved flags, gave several “high fives” and also saluted the veterans as a gesture of thanks.

You don’t have to ride the bike to sense the emotion in the air of D.C. Mere participation by standing in the crowd and observing the overwhelming support of the people make your throat swell.  A strange surge of emotion runs deep inside you making you feel patriotic even though you are merely a tourist in someone else’s land. I was fortunate to attend this event as I pin down this memorable ride and journey to D.C. in my heart forever! As the memorial day approaches every year, no matter where I am, my thoughts still drift towards the memories I spend in D.C.watching the roaring bikes ride for the cause.

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Copyright ©2016, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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