- - Wednesday, May 22, 2019

It’s interesting that as we get closer to this year’s Memorial Day, I have had the chance to digest the idea that there may not be another Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom in D.C.

I ride to The Wall on Memorial Day to pay my respects to those who sacrificed their lives on the battlefields I fought on, and I don’t believe that annual journey will be ending.

But the sight of hundreds of thousands of the nation’s veterans riding each year in the nation’s capital — and the veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan joining us Vietnam veterans — helped highlight that sacrifice as well as giving us a loud voice on the POW/MIA issue that could not be ignored. The Ride demonstrates the ongoing commitment of veterans to each other and our camaraderie.

I must also say the huge crowds that line the streets cheering and waving American flags stand in stark contrast to the way we were once treated, and it means a lot to all of us. It may sound crazy, but I see that as a show of gratitude for every name on that Wall, an appreciation of their sacrifice. I often wonder if the Gold Star families feel that and know how much their loss and their sacrifice is being acknowledged and appreciated. I like to think that everyone on that Wall knows we’re coming, hears us, feels us and feels our love. I think of that every mile as I ride there, every minute I’m there and all the way back home to the life I live that they paid for.

It’s my hope and belief that that level of high-profile exposure to the issues that affect all veterans will continue and grow on into the future. Hopefully the local Rolling Thunder Memorial Day events will be as successful as the annual D.C. demonstrations have been and will enhance any ongoing and continuing efforts in D.C. as well!

• Michael Shelby served as a U.S. Air Force combat controller in Vietnam in the 1960s and is now owner of San Diego Harley-Davidson. He is a member of Rolling Thunder, Inc. National.

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