Rolling Thunder Ride Celebrates its 25th Year

//Rolling Thunder Ride Celebrates its 25th Year

Rolling Thunder Ride Celebrates its 25th Year

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.

By |2015-04-15T14:23:37+00:00May 25th, 2012|Categories: News/Events Articles|38 Comments

About the Author:


  1. Leticia June 26, 2012 at 6:23 am

    I second Dimo J’s sesgugtion on the Suzuki Savage 650 (now known as the Suzuki S40). I started riding with one of these several years ago, and it was a great little bike. He’s right that it’s often looked at as sort of a chick bike, which is a shame since the bike is so much fun and is really capable of doing pretty much anything you ask it to do. I did some mild interstate touring on it. It’d handle 90 mph if you asked it, but that was scarier than I cared for. Interstate speeds of 70-75 mph were easily obtained without too much to worry about. The bike was dead-easy to maintain, too. It has a belt drive (no need for adjustment or lubrication), and it’s a single cylinder, so there’s only one carburetor to keep adjusted and one spark plug to change once in a blue moon. I rode it hard on four-lane divided highway to and from work every day and still got 55 mpg this AFTER I had re-jetted the carburetor and done a few more performance modifications that no doubt ate into my fuel mileage quite a bit.Anyway, enough of my boosterism for the Savage/S40. The bottom line is this: you probably want a light, low-slung bike with low- to moderate power to start off. I know plenty of women your size and smaller who have ridden bikes many of them ride more than I do. The Savage I used as an example is just a hair over 400 lbs soaking wet with a full tank of gas and oil in the crankcase. It’s easy to handle at low speed in parking lots and the like, too. You need something like that, so it will inspire confidence and teach you the basics of riding in a package that won’t scare or intimidate you too much. Then, you can move up to something bigger in a couple of years or you might never move up! There are times even I wish I hadn’t sold my old Savage (even though, at 6’3″, it was a bit small for me!)Some bikes I’d recommend you check out:* Suzuki Savage 650 / S40* Suzuki GZ250* Suzuki TU250* Suzuki GS500E / GS500F* Yamaha Virago 250* Kawasaki EX250 Ninja* Kawasaki EX500 Ninja* Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD* Kawasaki W650* Honda Rebel 250* Honda Nighthawk 250* Honda Shadow 600* Honda CB-series (pretty much any of the “standard” CB bikes up to 500cc would be a decent starter bike if you’re not afraid to do a little wrenching/restoring in the first few months of ownership often have to do this to clean up the laziness of previous owners with these bikes because they’re all about 20-30 years old, and like any bike of that age, they need some TLC.)Go to a few dealers and sit on a few new bikes to see what you like. I don’t recommend you buy new you will more than likely take a minor spill sometime, and to do so with a new bike will be both expensive and heart-breaking. I just recommend you use the dealership’s inventory to decide what seating positions feel good to you and don’t make you feel like you’re in danger of losing your balance when you stand the bike up off its kickstand. After you’ve done this, go out and find used bikes in the classifieds, Cragslist, etc. You can try to find a used model of the exact bike you liked the best, or you can broaden your horizons a little and scan the classifieds for used bikes with a similar seat height and overall “feel” of your favorite new bike.YES, you are definitely big enough to ride plenty of machines that “qualify as a motorcycle.” Get yourself enrolled in a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Beginners’ RiderCourse ASAP, then start searching for something that feels comfortable to you!

  2. Al Keck June 7, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I have read several of the post on this page and i am very familiar with Rolling Thunder since I am The Director for Ohio Chapters of this great organization. I have been a member and officer for over 15 years and I have always been proud of each and every member of RT. Our mission is to educate the public on the POW/MIA and veterans issues. Rolling Thunder Is a very dedicated organization. I would like to Thank everyone who made the Run this year and to ask a small favor. There is a bill on the floor at this time that needs to be voted on so it can move forward. Its purpose is to appoint a select committee to address the POW/Mia issues. We need this done ASAP. Please call your state congressmen to help this get done, IT IS LONG OVERDUE. H.RES.111…. Please Help us to Do this for our missing. They need us.

  3. Eddie PINSON June 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Eight of us Iron Warriors from Boise, Idaho, (Vietnam Vets) made the trip for the first time this year. Such a well organized function. It was super hot on Parade Day and CMA put out tons of cold water that was a life saver. I am 72 and this ride was the last in my bucket. I am sure glad that I was able to make it. Seeing the Wall and all the people on the parade route was just super. Thanks for a wonder time.

  4. Dean Welch June 7, 2012 at 9:46 am

    The 25th year of rolling thunder was my first. I know this is done to raise awareness for POW/MIA’s and to honor all those who have served and given their lives. This year was all that and more for me. When I stopped and saluted Tim Chambers I started to cry and did so through the rest of the parade. After 42 years I finally felt I was being welcomed home. The entire day was filled with so many emotions and memories good and bad. Thanks to everyone that put this together, participated or stood on the sidelines, may all those lost rest in peace knowing they each and everyone are HERO’S. 173rd Airborne VN 69/70…….

    • Irvin June 26, 2012 at 8:52 am

      They’re dangerous. You’re a girl. How alhtetic are you? Were you good at sports? If so, then that might indicate you have some semblance of coordination which you will need to ride a bike.If you’re a real girly girl, and are ditzy at most physical activity I would highly suggest you NOT get one.There are plenty of ways you can get hurt or killed riding a bike if you aren’t careful and constantly aware of your surroundings.If you are serious, start small and used. Don’t immediately buy new and hi-power because you don’t know if you would even enjoy / have the ability to drive a motorcycle.You just sound like you’re romanticizing about the idea of you and your boy friend riding your bikes together without giving it much thought.Look at inexpensive used bikes. There are plenty of decent ones for ~$3k. But, knowing that you’re a girl you will probably opt for a shiny new red one anyway.

  5. Bear Anglin June 6, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    This year was my second year riding in Rolling Thunder. I am not a vet but have many freinds and family who are. This year and 2010 I rode in with Run for the Wall in Roanoke, va. I have 2 daughters & I have brought them each when they were 10. This ride has been a teaching tool for me to help my daughters learn what the people of our country have given to us to allow us to be free. They both have made several comments that they now understand the importance of our current and former military and to honor them for what they do and have done for us. They now understand FREEDOM INSIST FREE. Thank you Run for the Wall and Rolling Thunder it would have take my wife and I years to teach them the lessons you taught them in a weekend. I guarantee my daughters and I will never forget. Thank you for your service Douglas S. Anglin

  6. Gascap June 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I am always surprised at how many people that are concerned about this issue. I have help feed these riders for 20+years. Being from one of the last original stops i Mo. and the first vietnam memorial
    I have keep up with this issue. Our goverment is so worried about oil, money etc. They forget about the people who made everything this country stands for Freedom. So why don”t we just do that FREE-THEM

  7. michael lander June 6, 2012 at 11:44 am

    thanks for this article, I feel very strong about this event it is great . First time in 8 years I couldnt make trip from Oklahoma maybe next year. Thanks to all who served

  8. Andrea Rohrbaugh June 6, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Awesome Grats & Ty to all who served & went in support. I would like to go once with our Son who served in Navy Seabee’s and did 3 tours in Iraq. We are just lucky he is home and safe now.

  9. George Donahue June 6, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Aught to be on every riders bucket list! Unbelievable experience.

    vv 70-71

  10. Richard Martin June 6, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Who is Dave rouse calling a Terroist Vet, explane yourself.

  11. Paul June 5, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    I attended 2008 …spent the better part of 3 hours that Sunday counting bikes and calculating the number present for the event … about 250K … hardly the 900K claimed. Great Event, Worthwhile Cause… math challenged.

    Semper Fi


    • O. D. Massey July 2, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      900,000 is the number of bike in DC, not the number in the parade!!

  12. Johnny June 5, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    This was my first time, came from NC to DC with Rolling Thunder NC-2 best time of my life on a bike know words can paint the picture you just haft to be there.

  13. Harleymanstd June 5, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Seven of us “old as Hell Angels” traveled to the 25th Rolling Thunder. Words cannot describe what we experienced. We will return!

  14. CPl "Spark" Parkin June 5, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    USMC 1978-1984
    Excellent weekend it was, rode down from N. E. Ohio, . . . adrenilin, excitment and a big lump in the throat.
    I’ll be there again.

    Meanwhile, I’ll round up care packages and send via the USO to my brothers’ in arms now serving in our place.

    Semper Fi!

  15. Dave Rouse June 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    All honour should be without reserve given to all vets alive & dead for their service to & for their respective countries… I mean real war vets & not terrorists now calling themselves vets…

    Blessings to all my fellow vets….I honour you my brothers….

  16. mike wormwood June 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I have lived in the DC area for most of my life and have attended all but four of the ceremonies. Rode in the parade of bikes four times but now just cheer on the riders from the sidewalk. Each year it just keeps getting biggerand bigger. Still amazes me how well behaved the crowd is. I still feel a great deal of pride for all of us who served and still serve. Plan to attend the gathering until. I can’t swing my. old, tired leg over my scooter any more.

  17. JOE ZOLOBKOWSKI June 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm


  18. BWell June 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I ride each year from Los Angeles to D.C. Our group in called Run For The Wall. (Check out We have been formally organized for 24 years now, only missing the very first. We ride for those who can’t – the very same reasons Scott mentioned- to remind those who so easily forget.

    Thank you Scott for the nice article.

    • Alla June 26, 2012 at 11:19 am

      I don’t know how the motorcycle dlraees handle it, but I have bought cars. Even if I pay cash or arrange my own financing, they still want to see my license and proof of insurance. Maybe that’s just the law in my state and yours is different. Maybe motorcycle dlraees don’t really care just as long as you qualify for their financing program.Everything is negotiable so have them figure out what your payments would be and ask them if you paid two months up front as a down payment/deposit, would they hold the bike for a month and still sell it to you for the current sales price once you have your certificate and permit?Whatever you agree on, get it in writing.

  19. R. Schmidt June 5, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Canada has recently renamed a highway for repatriating soldiers from Afghaniston. The HIGHWAY OF HEROS. Let us not forget that Viet Nan produced it”s share of deaths among Canadians who also served. We too, WILL NOT FORGET!

  20. Jerry "Doc" Walker June 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    “We happy few, we Band Of Brothers.” I took my 98 Honda Shadow ACE 750 and rode across the United States with Run For The Wall so I could get to Rolling Thunder! If you haven been . . . . start making your plans today! USMC Vietnam 66-67! “Welcome Home my Brothers”

  21. Curtis Oden June 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    This was my first year to participate, and it was both awe inspiring and humbling.

  22. Pearlhawk June 5, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    “Run For The WALL” going to DC finished its 24th Year – working w/ Rolling Thunder, It starts in Calif. & has 2 routes picking up Hundreds of bikes along the way & meeting Outside DC for ROLLING THUNDER Demostration !!!! IF You ride all or any part of this Run — You will Meet a lot of people accross the US & Be in a ride You will NEVER 4/get…
    ITS not for the light hearted, IT’s stressful & a Lot of people Wont be able to do this kind of a ride —- But it will be the MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE YOU WILL EVER DO IN YOUR LIFETIME !!! I dare You to do it !!!!!

    • Doc June 6, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Your correct 100 % I rod emy second year and hope to do next year

      • Strategy June 26, 2012 at 11:01 pm

        While I don’t recommend you start with one, my wife, who is 5 3 & 3/4″, rides an 1100 V-Star. She also owns a 500 Ninja. She’s also taken my Fat Boy for a spin. Learned to ride on my V45 Magna. (750 no pvuitine import tariffs in Canada we got the real McCoy) I think they would definitely qualify as motorcycles. All of them. Start with the MSF basic course, and go from there. No reason you and your BF can’t spend your free days riding together. My wife and I go out for bike rides together all the time. (Went to the Grand Canyon and back, three years ago )

  23. Jim "Tripwire" Durka June 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    This is an outstanding event. They should make ALL of the politicians and appointees stay in DC and stand in front of the Capital so they can see this is not some group just “making noise.” Maybe that way some may pay attention. To all my Brother Vets and Riders, HOOYAH.

  24. Carol June 5, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I was at the Rolling Thunder ride this year and was very impressive. I would like to Thank all the Veterans who helped making this country free…
    We will never forget!!!!

  25. Sarah Hord June 5, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I just returned from my first ride to the wall as a Rolling Thunder member and I want to Thank Artie, Ray and the other founding members for giving me the opportunity to show my support for those our government left behind and to remind everyone that Bo Bergdahl is a POW in Iraq. Thanks also to J& P Cycles for posting the article about Rolling Thunder on the website. I ordered a tire repair kit from you to take on the trip; just in case!

  26. US Veterans MC June 5, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Great article and this was the best Rolling Thunder yet. The 25th anniversary with over 900,000 motorcycles in attendance. We had a great time in DC and we just want to say if you never been there and experianced this wonderfull event go! It is a moving and humbling experiance! God bless our Veterans both past and present!

    • Guowei June 27, 2012 at 2:01 am

      Insurance rates are calculated by the type of velcihe operated, the age of the person operating it, and the accident history of that particular velcihe.If you are over 25 (being married also helps), you have cheaper rates than a teenager for the same coverage. The assumption is that younger people do not have the experience or common sense and do not drive safely. You are, of course, the only exception on the planet, and you ALWAYS drive safe. Insurance companies don’t care; they have MANY years of claims filed that proves young drivers are bad, case closed.The type of velcihe makes a difference depending on the type of insurance you get. Liability is required on almost every state, and is loosely based on how much damage you would do to the OTHER velcihe. Since motorcycles are light (and a lot of motorcycles crash solo), liability is dirt cheap. Like under $ 20 per month cheap for the older crowd.Full coverage, i.e. Comp Collision is where a motorcyclist can get raped. The cost there is determined by how much the velcihe is worth, and to a lesser extent how likely that velcihe is to crash. These can cancel each other out depending on the bike you want. Not a lot of 18-year olds can afford a Ducati 999, so there is very little data that suggests Ducati 999s are wrecked by teenagers. Therefore, the insurance is lower than a GSX-R600, which get wrapped around everything in sight.The deductible amount is also critical. If you lay the bike down and need $ 1000 worth of work, a $ 150 deductible means you pay only $ 150 to get it fixed. If you have a $ 500 deductible and drop it in the garage, that $ 200 clutch cover, $ 80 rearview mirror and $ 50 turn signal come out of YOUR pocket. If you finance a motorcycle, you will be required to carry full coverage, and a lower deductible means higher premiums.I am 34, have full coverage on a 600cc sportbike, no tickets, one crash, and pay about $ 32/month. On the other side, a 17 year old with two tickets, no MSF course, and a Yamaha R6 might see $ 2000 per year premiums just for liability coverage.BTW, car insurance is only sky high if you fall into the under 25/bad driver category. Full coverage on my Jeep is only $ 35/month.

  27. RPMC June 5, 2012 at 8:08 am

    We did make the run down from CT, it was a great ride down, great stay in DC and made great friends at the 2012 Rolling Thunder Ride through the memorial area. This is something that all Americans that love this country should experiance once in thier lives. On a Bike, or just in the area, the movement itself tells it all. For all who made it to represent those who didn’t and who are still missing, we will be there next year and the year after to support and pray for you and your family.

  28. charles conklin June 5, 2012 at 2:04 am

    I went there this year, figuring I wouldn’t have much of a chance in the future. I am a disabled vet from the desert storm, and loaded 18 oxygen tanks on the back of my bike, and road from ny to washington dc with 10 other bikes from my club. There are no words to describe the feeling when you leave the pentagon parking lot to ride to the wall, and you see all those people lined up showing their support. It hit me hard enough that I almost had to stop. It was definitely an emotional event, I am glad I had taken.

    • Bruno June 27, 2012 at 12:56 am

      it totally dedenps on what kind of motorcycle your looking for. cruisers? sportbikes? dirtbikes? im about the same size and your defininetly big enough to ride lol ive seen like like 90 pound chicks ride big ass bikes. go to a dealership and talk to someone there, sit on them, find out what size bike you want and how fast you plan on going.

  29. John Granfield May 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm


  30. brian May 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    very nice informative article. I’d like to share this among my friends who aren’t sure what Rolling Thunder is.

    I will be participating this year again and plan to reiterate “we will never forget.”

  31. James Parker May 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Temper Fi !

Comments are closed.