- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

Rolling Thunder’s annual ride into the District on Sunday begins a Memorial Day weekend of solemn observances of U.S. military sacrifices and celebrations of their victories.

It concludes Monday with the National Memorial Day Parade, with scheduled appearances by a World War I veteran, a Hall of Fame pitcher who interrupted his baseball career to serve his country as a Navy gunner in World War II and veterans of the first unit of black fighter pilots.

The Rolling Thunder motorcyclists are scheduled to hold a wreath-laying ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Northwest Saturday morning at 11 a.m. in advance of their main rally.

That big noise that gives title to the cyclists is scheduled to begin at noon Sunday as the group gathers at the North Pentagon parking lot for their “Ride for Freedom” demonstration. Arlington County police will close Washington Boulevard, Route 27 from the nearby I-395 to the Memorial Bridge until 3 p.m.

Last year, 350,000 motorcyclists, bicyclists and scooter riders took part in the ride. First arrivals Saturday will ride to Walter Reed Army Hospital and the Veterans Administration to urge improvement of healthcare, return of prisoners of war, and more searches for service personnel missing in action.

“This is something we must do to show our support for current and future veterans, and for POWs and MIAs,” said Artie Muller, 62, who founded Rolling Thunder 20 years ago.

The ride concludes with a two-hour rally that begins at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial.

A free concert featuring the National Symphony Orchestra and musicians Natalie Cole and Josh Turner is scheduled for later Sunday evening on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

President Bush is scheduled to deliver a Memorial Day address at Arlington National Ceremony Monday. Events begin at 11 a.m. and include a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a Marine Band concert.

A wreath-laying service at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday.

The National Memorial Day Parade begins Monday at 2 p.m. at 7th Street Northwest and will proceed west along Constitution Avenue, past the White House and Washington Monument and end at 17th Street Northwest.

Seven recipients of the Medal of Honor will signal the beginning of the parade, which will halt for a minute of silence — a National Moment of Remembrance — at 3 p.m. Taps will be played for the men and women who died in service to their country, and Air Force fighter jets will fly over in a missing-man formation.

The parade will also honor 106-year-old Frank Buckles, one of only four living American veterans of World War I. A Missouri farm boy, he was 16 when he enlisted to drive an ambulance for the Army.

Among the other parade honorees will be Robert William Andrew “Bob” Feller, 88, an Iowan who interrupted an all-star career as a pitcher for the Cleveland baseball team to serve four years during World War II as an anti-aircraft gunner in the Navy.

The parade will also honor the Air Force, which was created 60 years ago. It will feature a special color guard and veterans of the Doolittle Raiders, Flying Tigers and Tuskegee Airmen, the first unit of black fighter pilots during World War II.

The parade’s honorary marshal will be actor Gary Sinise, who portrayed Lt. Dan in the film, “Forrest Gump.” The emcee of the parade will be Adrian Cronauer, a Vietnam War-era disc jockey who was the inspiration for Robin Williams’ character in the film “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

The Air Force Band and the District’s Eastern High School band will lead the parade, which will include 18 other bands.

Among area events this weekend:

• Saturday, 11 a.m.: Rolling Thunder holds a wreath-laying ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Northwest.

• Sunday, 8 p.m.: Concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol featuring actors Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise, and Charles Durning, musicians Natalie Cole and Josh Turner and the National Symphony Orchestra

• Sunday, 8 p.m.: Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna holds a free performance by the U.S. Marine Band followed by fireworks.

• Monday, 9 a.m.: City of Rockville holds its 63rd annual Memorial Day Parade, starting at Martins Lane and North Washington Street

• Monday, 11 a.m.: A wreath-laying ceremony and concert will be held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

• Monday, 1 p.m.: Annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

• Monday, 2 p.m.: The National Memorial Day Parade featuring marching bands and veterans units from all 50 states, will begin at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.

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