A lifelong Harley-Davidson rider and U.S. Army veteran, singer-songwriter Rockie Lynne is a proud member of Rolling Thunder, Inc., and shared these thoughts for this Washington Times special section.
Q: What motivated you to join Rolling Thunder?
I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was a kid. The first vehicle I ever owned had two wheels … it was a 1971 Ironhead Sportster.
In 2011, I was asked to participate in a documentary by a filmmaker who was doing a project for an overseas television network. It was his idea to film me as I rode up to D.C. with the local Rolling Thunder chapter from my hometown of Statesville, North Carolina.
I made the decision to join the organization after being invited by that same chapter to visit some of their elder members. We got on our bikes and went to the homes of two of their senior members who had become bedridden. These veterans waited all month for us to come to visit them. It was one of the most beautiful things that I had ever witnessed. These guys were doing the right thing just because it is the right thing to do. I knew then that I had to get involved. I am now the vice president of that chapter, Rolling Thunder Chapter 2, North Carolina.
Q: What do you like best about the work that Rolling Thunder is currently doing?
One of the things that I love most about Rolling Thunder is how “hometown-centric” each individual chapter is. I love the work that the organization is doing on a local level with our veterans. My chapter goes to the VA twice a month play bingo, among other things. We recently got together to build a porch for a wheelchair-bound veteran who could not easily access his front door. We had the materials donated and got out there with hammers and nails and built it for him. We do little things that mean a lot for people who have in some way been forgotten or overlooked by their fellow citizens.
On the national front, when I attended my first leadership conference, I was completely floored with how organized and focused the national leadership was on the “big picture” issues impacting our veterans nationally. They mobilize their base to impact legislation, and that is democracy in action. I have a tremendous amount of respect for founder Artie Muller, current National President Joe Bean and all of the National Board Members. They are all volunteers and they work their tails off to make a difference for those who serve all of us.
It’s really cool that Rolling Thunder, Inc., can be doing smaller acts of kindness for our veterans locally and at the same time have a broader impact on the issues impacting our veterans across the nation.
Q: Tell us about the first time you rode in the “Ride For Freedom”?
Like many people, I had heard about Rolling Thunder demonstration for years. I knew to expect a lot of motorcycles and I was looking forward to riding past all the national landmarks but I was completely taken aback by the support of the citizens lining the streets as we rode by. I had heard about “The Saluting Marine” (Tim Chambers), but actually seeing him standing there brought tears to my eyes. I could not have been more proud of my country and of our nation, knowing that a million motorcycles were there to demonstrate a grievance with their government, and that we live in a country where that right is not only protected but thousands of people were cheering for that freedom. It’s a remarkable place that we live. And I will never take that freedom for granted.
Q: What are your thoughts on the future of Rolling Thunder?
There are so many young men and women who have recently returned from multiple-tour combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I know that they can count on Rolling Thunder to be there across this great land to assist them.
Q: Why have you chosen to invest your time and talent into lifting up Rolling Thunder’s mission?
As I mature, I am coming to realize that the most important commodity in my life is time. There is so precious little of it. So I choose to invest myself fully and completely into causes that I believe in absolutely. Rarely does something come along where people get together to do something just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s Americans and veterans helping veterans. There are 1,620 Vietnam-era POWs/MIAs still unaccounted for. Someone needs to stand up for them and for all veterans who put their lives on the line in service of our country.
My gift is to write, record and perform songs about what I see and what I know and what I believe in. And every great cause deserves a theme song. So I wrote one for Rolling Thunder.
The album packaging has detailed information about Rolling Thunder Charities, Inc., and what they do, along with the organization’s mission statement. Music can say things that words alone cannot say. It can touch people on a different level. It’s a different way to spread the word about some of the kindest and most giving people that I have ever met. And of course to shine a spotlight on the POW/MIA mission.
It can be found on my website at www.rockielynne.com or on Rolling Thunder National’s website at www.rollingthunder1.com.
Q: You perform every year at the main stage on Sunday afternoon, immediately following the “Ride for Freedom.” Tell us about that.
The stage is located on the National Mall at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.
If you want to get the full experience of Rolling Thunder, you must come to the stage after the ride. It’s a chance to see the leadership of Rolling Thunder and learn about the organization’s mission. There are special guest speakers — everyone from decorated generals to Hollywood celebrities have been on that stage. Last year, it was President Donald Trump, who came as a Republican presidential candidate. This year I will be performing with my band for the sixth year in a row. Actor Robert Patrick from “Scorpion” is there every year. He rides in from L.A. with his club to be part of the event.
I want to invite everyone participating in the “Ride For Freedom” to turn left and park your bike in the grass at the end of the ride instead of leaving. Come and hear more about this great organization. It’s the right thing to do.
• Rockie Lynne has appeared nationally on “Good Morning America,” “Fox & Friends” and ABC News, and has appeared many times on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. A veteran of the U.S. Army (82nd Airborne), Rockie has tirelessly toured military bases around the world. He is the founder of the national charitable organization, Tribute To The Troops, which brings comfort to our Gold Star Families. To date, it has raised over $600,000 for a college fund benefitting children who have lost a parent in active duty.