Saluting Heroes – My personal “Rolling Thunder” story

Many of you that know me know that I am a dyed in the wool, flag waving, flag wearing, Harley-Davidson riding, “love it, or leave it,” in your face Patriot with a capital P. All year long I look forward to Memorial Day weekend. For me it marks the official beginning of the summer season and it’s the one weekend in the year when I can ride my Harley into Washington DC with 400,000 +/- of my motorcycle riding friends to express my sincere concern for all POW’s & MIA’s and to show my gratitude and appreciation for all of the Veterans that have ever served our country.

There are a few Veterans that have had such a huge influence in my life that I want to thank for their service to our country and for always being there for me:

David King, U.S. Navy WWII (my Dad)
Herbert Ernest Daniels, U.S. Army – Paratrooper WWII (my Uncle)
Herbert King, U.S. Navy fought in WWII (my Uncle)
William Daniels, U.S. Army – Paratrooper WWII (my Uncle)
William Daniels, Jr., U.S. Navy fought in Viet Nam (my Cousin)
James Barbour, U.S. Air Force (Father-in-Law)
Herbert Lee Davis, U.S. Army fought in Viet Nam (my Brother)
Frank Davis, U. S. Navy (Brother)
Ernest Daniels, U.S. Army (Cousin)
Regis Canny, U.S. Air Force (Brother-In-Law)
Lennie King, Sgt. U.S. Marines (Brother)
Matthew Wayne Walker, U.S. Air Force (my Step-Son)

Whether it is rainy and cold or absolutely beautiful like it was this year, it is always a humbling experience to be in the presence of so many people that take time out of their lives to pay their respects to our fallen heroes and express their gratitude to all other Veterans for their service to our country.

On the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend we gather at the local Harley-Davidson dealership in Frederick, Maryland in the early morning hours to share coffee and donuts, seemingly endless war stories, and to get organized for the ride into the city. At 9AM we leave, approximately 2,000 of us. We travel south on Maryland Route 270 with Police escorts to our destination the Viet Nam War Memorial (“The Wall”). All along the way we’re greeted by people who have stopped their cars on the shoulder of the road to acknowledge us as we go by in mass with our flags waving and tears in our goggle covered eyes. On the bridges and overpasses there are individuals and families, Moms and Dads with kids waving their flags and watching us as we slowly go by, two abreast, the line stretching for miles and miles.

Once we arrive in the city we gather in the Pentagon parking lot and wait for the official “Ride To The Wall” to begin. The crowd is made up of Business Owners, Doctors, Lawyers, Construction Workers, Retirees, Cab Drivers, Firemen, Policemen, Housewives, Realtors, young people and old people, Republicans and Democrats. There are no fights, no disturbances, no drunks, no stolen purses. There is however, a pervasive sense of gratitude and solemnity that is apparent on the faces of all those around you. At the end of the day we gather up our stuff, (trash included), and leave the city headed for our homes. Some will have to travel all the way to California to get home, some to Florida, some to probably every other state in the union.

When my wife and I get home we always watch the evening news to see how they report on the event. Of course it goes without saying, the 4-5 seconds of news coverage we get consists of one small shot of a few moving motorcycles and then the leader of Rolling Thunder shaking hands with the President. There are no interviews with any of the riders or the spectators to ask them why they participate in the annual “Ride To The Wall.” There are no helicopter shots to show the viewing audience the motorcycle riders staged in the Pentagon parking lots waiting for the “Ride To The Wall” start. There is never an interview with a Police official or other government person to tell us how the city prepares for this event, or how it has grown over the years, or how this event compares to other similar sized events held in the city. It is at the end of this day, after yet another disappointing showing on the part of the national news media that I wonder, how much coverage would we have gotten if there were 30-40 of us gathered on some street corner with protest signs cussing at our government and chanting God ______ America? My 55 years on this earth and my many years of observing the way the national news media works tells me there would most likely be 10 reporters for every single protestor.

I have said my piece and I thank all of the Veterans who have ever served for giving me the freedom to do so. I, we, owe you all a debt that can never be repaid.

I have pasted below a few pictures from the day:
Jim & Vicki Kingrolling-thunder-1.jpgthe-spectators.jpgrob-and-christine-dakis.jpgrolling-thunder-3.jpg

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