This year marks the 25th anniversary of the POW/MIA run to the wall. This annual event has the goal of ensuring that Americans know many of our veterans from the Vietnam war have yet to be accounted for.
In the fall of 1987, a small group of Vietnam War veterans met to discuss their personal concerns about the POW/MIAs from that Southeast Asian conflict. Having honorably served their country and having taken an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies…” and to “bare true faith and allegiance to same,” these vets were deeply troubled by the lack of attention given to those who did not make it out with their lives or their freedom.
These veterans discussed what they termed 10,000 reported sightings of live Americans existing in dismal captivity. The government and mainstream press has generally ignored intelligence reports of these sightings.
So a quarter of a century ago, the founders of Rolling Thunder prepared plans for a gathering in Washington, D.C., during the 1988 Memorial Day weekend. They reached out to their families, fellow veterans and veteran advocate groups to form a march and demonstration at the nation’s Capitol. Their arrival would be announced by the roar of their motorcycles — a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder.
In fact, the group named itself Rolling Thunder — a title that was trademarked in 1990 and has endured since that first march. Word spread quickly back then, and by Memorial Day weekend in 1988, more than 2,500 motorcycle riders converged on Washington, D.C., from all parts of the country.
What they demanded from our leaders was a full accounting of all POW/MIAs. As the founders of Rolling Thunder made their stand that day in front of the Capitol, they reflected thankfully for the people who came in support of the POW/ MIAs and for the unity that was felt through the crowd. This event marked Rolling Thunder’s first demonstration, and until all POW/MIAs are accounted for, the annual run to the wall will continue.
In recent years, the annual “Ride for Freedom” to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall has drawn an estimated 900,000 participants — quite an expansion from the 2,500 that showed up on that inaugural Memorial Day ride.
And it’s happening again this year this Sunday in Washington, D.C., assembling in the north Pentagon parking lot. Folks are coming in from all across this land — some departing weeks ago. And they all carry the same message: “We will never forget.”
As you spend your holiday this year, remember those who are not accounted for. And I offer my own personal thanks to Rolling Thunder for showing me that those lost are not forgotten.