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The general and the movie star applaud the veterans and the bikers of Rolling Thunder

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They were seated at the same table, celebrants at the annual Rolling Thunder gathering on the eve of the organization’s monumental ride in the name of POWs, MIAs, veterans and remembrance.

That would be retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Robert Patrick, bad guy in “Terminator II” and scores of other big-screen sci-fi and crime thrillers.

The pair were in convivial biker mode, though. Denim, leather. Relaxed expressions.

They joined hundreds of their Rolling Thunder brethren for a few hours in the ballroom of a Virginia hotel, where the shining big bikes were lined up down the sidewalk under a full moon from one block to the next, and in perfect formation.

The group — vests emblazoned with fierce mottoes, American flags and eagles — said the Pledge of Allegiance and prayed for fallen comrades. They honored wounded warriors, veterans of all wars, Gold Star mothers and wives, a former Vietnamese soldier.

The general and the actor were right there with them.

Both have offered longtime support to Rolling Thunder; both relish their personal time aboard motorcycles, facing an open road. Mr. Patrick, in bristling full beard and hipster horn-rimmed glasses, could be unrecognizable to those who recall him as an intense, cleanshaven villain.

But there’s no trace of Hollywood in him at the moment.

“I’m here to show my respect to the armed forces,” the actor tells The Watercooler. “I love this country; I love what all these guys did for us. Being with them means something to me. It’s unique. This is a unique experience.”

Gen. Myers, who retired from the Air force a four-star in 2005, shares the sentiment.

“This is a roomful of patriots,” he says. “They care deeply for America. And they’re authentic: What you see is what you get with them, and that’s of huge value.”

The Rolling Thunder 26th Ride for Freedom commenced at high noon Sunday.

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