- - Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ahead of Memorial Day, Washington, D.C., will welcome thousands of members of Rolling Thunder from across the country to mark the 30th anniversary of the organization’s tireless efforts to ensure that, as a nation, we never forget about the over 83,000 men and women from this country that are Prisoners Of War-Missing In Action.

It is not simply during the annual rally in Washington that members of Rolling Thunder make their voices heard to ensure that the public and the government never forget our POWs and MIAs as well as veterans of all ages; it is each and every day in communities around the country.

Members of Rolling Thunder participate in Honor Flight celebrations helping to provide these American heroes with the celebration they deserve by escorting buses of veterans to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. And Rolling Thunder chapters across the country log thousands of hours of community service at local VA hospitals. By visiting with veterans and providing moral support and a listening ear, Rolling Thunder ensures that veterans faced with the hidden wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury do not suffer alone. And when a family loses a son or daughter on the battlefield, Rolling Thunder advocates work hard to make sure the Gold Star family is taken care of. By holding events in local communities across the country, Rolling Thunder creates a gathering place for families who have lost loved ones and promotes a critical support system for the families of our fallen servicemen and women.

Rolling Thunder’s efforts are widely recognized in local city halls, professional sports stadiums and schools, such as Braintree High School in the 8th Congressional District of Massachusetts, where you can take a moment to reflect in front of a POW/MIA Chair of Honor.

After years of advocacy by members of Rolling Thunder Massachusetts Chapter 1 and Rolling Thunder, Inc. National, we are moving closer to having a Chair of Honor on the grounds of the United States Capitol.

Through the tireless dedication of former Rolling Thunder Massachusetts Chapter 1 President Joe D’Entremont and National Board Member Gus Dante, I was proud to introduce the National POW/MIA Remembrance Act of 2015, alongside my colleague Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, with strong support from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. In April of 2016, President Barack Obama signed the National POW/MIA Remembrance Act of 2015 into law after it passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

The legislation honors American servicemembers who are POW and MIA by placing a commemorative chair on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. That chair will forever stand unoccupied as a solemn reminder of the over 83,000 brave Americans who are still waiting to be brought home. The U.S. Capitol serves as a symbol of our nation’s history and enduring spirit, so it is appropriate to recognize those who remain unaccounted for under its dome. When our fellow Americans go to war, we make them a promise never to leave them behind. That vow is sacred. When we pass this chair every day, we will be reminded of our commitment to our POWs and MIAs and their families that we have not forgotten them and we will never forget them. Soon, Members of Congress and visitors to the U.S. Capitol will pass by the Chair of Honor and take a moment to pay respect to our Prisoners of War and Missing in Action who serve our nation with honor and valor.

Rolling Thunder’s incredible work helps to tell the stories of all of America’s veterans, including our POWs and MIAs. Through the efforts of veterans’ groups like Rolling Thunder, we, as Americans, stand together to ensure that our POWs, MIAs, and their families do not suffer alone. With these solemn acts of remembrance, we do our small part to help shoulder the burden of their sacrifice.

As Rolling Thunder rides into Washington, the entire nation salutes you and your work. By supporting our servicemen and women, our veterans and their families and by honoring our fallen heroes as well as our POWs and MIAs on Memorial Day and every day, you reflect what is truly the best of America, that we will not forget those who have served.

God bless our POWs and MIAs and their families and God bless these United States of America.

Democrat Rep. Stephen F. Lynch has represented the 8th Congressional District of Massachusetts since 2001. He serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

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