- ‘Tis the Season: London florist creates $4.6 million Christmas wreath
- No tailgating allowed at Super Bowl XLVIII
- Pentagon to transport African troops to Central African Republic
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend’s shopping jumps to his death
- Ukraine leader to talk with protesters; Washington urges caution
- Pope Francis: A nun saved my life
- Israeli P.M. Netanyahu backs out of Mandela funeral
- Elian Gonzalez makes first trip outside Cuba since custody battle
- U.S., British intelligence agents enter online sci-fi world to spy on gamers
- Sarah Palin to host the outdoors show ‘Amazing America’
A thunderous arrival for a solemn mission: Ride for Freedom marks its 26th year
There is no better name for an event that resonates with patriotism, deep loyalty, sacrifice, a sense of mission and authentic history: Rolling Thunder. Oh, yeah. Here they come. They’re rolling, and it is thunderous.
For the 26th year, hundreds of thousands of motorcycle riders will glide into the nation’s capital aboard perfectly tricked-out Harley-Davidsons, three-wheelers, newfangled racing bikes and old hogs — bound for the Ride for Freedom.
Last year, 750,000 riders were roaring their way from the Pentagon to hallowed acreage surrounding the Lincoln Memorial in homage to the U.S. military, not to mention chrome, mighty engines and old-school fossil fuel.
They hail from 90 chartered chapters, though all riders are welcome.
“Everything about this rally still affects me, no matter how many years we’ve been doing it. And everything we do is meant to remember and honor our POWs, MIAs and all of our veterans,” said former U.S. ArmySgt. Artie Muller, who founded the organization in 1987 and named it for a U.S. bombing campaign over North Vietnam more than two decades earlier.
“I lost a whole lot of guys in that war. I never forget that I made it back but they didn’t,” he said.
“It’s hard to predict how many will show up,” said organizer and spokeswoman Nancy Regg. “We lose members each year, particularly our Vietnam vets. It can be hard on some of them. But we always draw at least 500,000 riders. Always. And all are welcome.”
Something else, lingering and persistent, troubles Mr. Muller.
“It’s what we call the ‘live’ issue. Are the men who were left behind after all past wars still alive? We recover the remains of those lost, which is an honorable thing. But little is being done to resolve what happened to those left behind alive,” he said. “Sgt. Bowe R. Bergdahl, captured July 1, 2009, is still missing. What are we doing to get him home? Let’s find him and the others — including those missing soldiers from other countries.”
He should know. With such allies as chanteuse Nancy Sinatra and others along for the ride, Mr. Muller was warmly welcomed in the White House for years. George W. Bush made a practice of greeting them in the grand driveway of the presidential residence. The group had a brief but cordial visit with President Obama last year.
Just don’t get Mr. Muller started on health care, though. He is no fan of “Obamacare” and is particularly piqued over backlogs on disability claims, military budget cuts and increases in prescription costs for veterans. They are scheduled to rise from $9 to $36, he said.
“Why is that? Many vets can’t even afford their medications now. It’s a disgrace,” Mr. Muller said.
He established Rolling Thunder Charities six years ago as an entity to tend to veterans and active-duty personnel who are under financial or personal duress. Among the organization’s major backers are Harley-Davidson and Aetna. Ninety-five percent of the donations go directly to those in need, Mr. Muller said.
Though politics, policy and legislation are never far from the Rolling Thunder radar, the group has a sense of place and occasion. On Friday evening, a candlelight vigil will be held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Saturday’s events include a five-hour program at the Lincoln Memorial, a wreath presentation at the United States Navy Memorial, traditional Scottish pipes and drums, and plenty of opportunities to salute Old Glory. The American flag is properly displayed virtually everywhere at these events.
Rep. Reid J. Ribble, Wisconsin Republican, and Rep. Jon Runyan, New Jersey Republican, are among the scheduled speakers.
When Sunday dawns, the Rolling Thunder ride takes on a life of its own. It takes six hours to assemble all those motorcycles in the only spot big enough to hold them: the Pentagon parking lots. Preparing for the noon ride is no freewheeling occasion.
“No attitudes! Confirmed: everyone must wear a helmet! No alcoholic beverages in the Pentagon parking lot!” proclaimed an edict sent to the vast membership.
At 67, Mr. Muller has not lost his fervor for the ride or his instinct to guard the interests of the American military.
“Always remember our troops serving,” he said. “Always remember those who have borne the battle and those that gave their lives for us so we can live free.
“The cost of freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Inside the Beltway: Pricey health care doesn't guarantee a long life
- Inside the Beltway: 'Guns Save Lives Day'
- Inside the Beltway: Conservatives ponder next 'character assassin'
- Inside the Beltway: Americans think U.S. global prestige is fading, Pew poll shows
- Inside the Beltway: Stringent advice from a reporter to Obama on Term 2
Latest Blog Entries
- Americans just say yes: members of Congress should be subject to random drug testing
- 70 percent of Americans say U.S. has lost world respect; 80 percent of GOP, 56 percent of Democrats agree
- For the gift givers arsenal: politically incorrect guides that praise America
- 70 percent of Americans fear another government shutdown in January when the money runs out
- Are you the parent of a girl? Then you're likely a conservative Republican study says
Activist court cooks up a new rule to undermine religion
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- MILLER: Brady Campaign says Colorado recalls due to NRA, not grassroots opposition to gun control
- WOLF: The president's other Obamacare lies
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- Ted Cruz sees legal landmines ahead for Obamacare
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
- MSNBC host: Obamacare a 'wealthy white men' racist word
- Satanists petition for statue at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Richard Ivory, editor-in-chief of Hip Hop Republicans and HHR at Communities Digital News, turns his interests, and pen, to the people making news today.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
The world impacts us. What happens in our towns, cities, states, country and on this planet makes a difference to us.
Happiness is attainable. Morning to night. I love to teach, deal with folks that have an issue and really wish to tackle it and write.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow