This annual event, now in its 31st year, is intended to raise awareness of those soldiers who have been lost but never accounted for by the government.
Melbourne, FL -- (ReleaseWire) -- 06/14/2018 --In April 1975, the Vietnam War came to an end. At that time there were 2,646 Americans listed as Missing in Action (MIA). As with many things from that embarrassing period in the nation's history, this was an issue that the United States government would rather not have had to deal with and, for the most part, tried to forget.
However, this was an issue that refused to be ignored or forgotten. By the mid-80s, as evidenced by the popularity of movies such as "Uncommon Valor" and the "Missing in Action" franchise, the lost soldiers had taken root in the public consciousness as a symbol of national disgrace.
This was the atmosphere in 1987 when Sergeant Artie Muller, veteran and motorcycle enthusiast, had an epiphany. If the powers in Washington would not listen to the people and live up to their duty, as those listed as MIA had, then he would hold a protest in their own backyard that was too loud to ignore.
That was the birth of the Rolling Thunder Protest: the bringing together of motorcycle clubs, veterans' groups and Gold Star Families each Memorial Day weekend to remind U.S. lawmakers that those who have yet to be accounted for have not been forgotten.
This year marked the 31st anniversary of the event and drew a crowd of over 400,000 motorcyclists, as well as representatives from various veterans' groups and Gold Star Mothers, for whom a special candlelight ceremony was held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Total participation by riders and spectators is believed to be well in excess of 1 million people, and the protest is considered to be the single largest motorcycle event in the world. This is a far cry from the estimated 2,500 who first rode across Memorial Bridge in the event's inaugural ride.
This year's protest began on the afternoon of Friday, May 25, at the Washington National Cathedral with a Blessing of the Bikes. This was followed the same evening with a candlelight vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Sunday, riders wishing to participate in the Rolling Thunder XXXI First Amendment Demonstration Run began arriving in the North and South Pentagon parking lots at 7 a.m. for a noon departure. From the staging area, the riders made their way through the Washington Mall and then to West Potomac Park, where they held a ceremony paying homage to their fallen brothers and sisters. This was followed by speeches delivered at the Lincoln Memorial and a musical tribute to veterans and Memorial Day concert at the Capitol Building.
Memorial Day itself was reserved for its intended purpose, the honoring of those who paid the ultimate price to assure America's freedom.
WWII Memorial Wreath Laying Ceremony
Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery
Vietnam Veterans Wreath Laying Ceremony
Annual Memorial Day Observance at Vietnam Veterans Memorial
National Memorial Day Parade with marching bands and veterans' units from all 50 states down Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street Northwest
A National Moment of Remembrance to close the event
Florida motorcycle attorney and frequent event participant Brad Sinclair had this to say about the protest run: "I participate in a number of rides and rallies throughout the year. I can honestly say that none of them are as emotionally charged or more rewarding to take part in as the Rolling Thunder Protest." Brad continued, "You will never feel more proud of being an American or understanding what our country really stands for than you will when communing with these people."