- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2016

Donald Trump met crowds of arriving motorcyclists and supporters at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday following Rolling Thunder’s 29th annual ride in support of members of the U.S. armed forces.

“I must say no matter where I go, there are bikers and their bikes are everywhere. I said, ‘Why are they all here?’ And my people say, ‘They are here to protect you, Mr. Trump,’” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said to thousands gathered at the memorial.

In a brief speech, Mr. Trump addressed key issues from his campaign, such as illegal immigration and the welfare of veterans, that resonated among the thousands of bikers showing their support for prisoners of war and those missing in action.

The crowd cheered his calls for beefing up the military, protecting Second Amendment rights and building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Eileen Muller, referred to by members of Rolling Thunder as the organization’s “first lady,” offered an open invitation for any candidate to speak at the event, but Mr. Trump was the only one who accepted.

“We aren’t telling anyone to vote for Trump,” said Ms. Muller, who has been involved with Rolling Thunder since her husband, Artie, founded the organization in 1987. “We are just telling everyone to get out and vote for whoever they choose.”

Not all of those attending the motorcycle rally had a political agenda, however.

“I don’t get involved in that stuff,” said Steven Martinez, who rode for three hours from his home in Norfolk, Virginia, to attend the event. “It’s super exciting to be here. This is my first time riding, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.”

The Rolling Thunder rally has been held every year since its inception in 1988 — a massive display of patriotism that has become a Memorial Day tradition for the area. The organization’s 12,000 formal members are joined by thousands of independent riders and support groups for the annual ride from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“It’s an incredibly dramatic display,” said Raymond Konan of Orlando, Florida, one of thousands of spectators gathered to watch the departure of motorcyclists from their staging ground at the Pentagon’s parking lots.

Though he has worked for many years as an international lawyer at the Pentagon, Mr. Konan said this was his first time attending Rolling Thunder.

“I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t come up on a bike,” said Mr. Konan.

Robert Povalkins, a former sailor who lives in North Carolina, rode his motorcycle to the Rolling Thunder event — one of the many of the independent riders that have arrived to show support.

“It’s a great thing Rolling Thunder does. When I get home, I’m going to join my local chapter,” Mr. Povalkins said.

Vietnam War veterans Gus Dante and Gary Domanski got involved with the organization more than 10 years ago. They are neighbors of the Mullers in New Jersey.

Since retiring, Mr. Dante and Mr. Domanski have spent a great time working for the organization and express pride in its support of veterans via legislation and memorial projects, as well as efforts to help veterans in need of financial assistance.

“We keep pumping,” Mr. Domanski said, referring to the organization’s ongoing efforts.

For Mr. Dante and Mr. Domanski, Rolling Thunder has become a team to which they are thoroughly committed.

“There is no ‘I’ in team,” Mr. Dante said. “We get it done together.”

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