Sunday, May 24, 2009

where I spent my day

I was here today:
In case you're NOT a motorcycle enthusiast, it's an amazing event that happens every Memorial Day weekend.
Rolling Thunder began as a demonstration following the era of the Vietnam War, which was a difficult time in America's history. Similar to today's political climate, our nation was divided over issues of peace and war. However, many of America's military were killed or missing in action and their remains were not being brought home to be respectfully buried and honored. In 1988, Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, two veterans of the Vietnam War, rallied together their families, fellow veterans, and veterans' advocates to organize a demonstration at the Capitol Building in Washington, DC during the Memorial Day weekend. They announced their arrival with the roar of their Harley-Davidsons, a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam named Operation Rolling Thunder. Approximately 2500 motorcycles participated in this rally, demanding that the U.S. government account for all POW/MIA's. The group became known as Rolling Thunder and each year since has held an annual "Ride for Freedom" to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

To give you some perspective, 350,000 bikes participated in the 2008 Event. I don't know the numbers for 2009 yet. But I was there for 2009. And I'd bet they top 2008 figures.

Here are some pictures from today. I apologize that they're not super crisp. I was moving in a lot of them........

This is what I saw as we're pulling up to the Pentagon, where all the Bikes gather before the Demonstration through DC. We got there EARLY. (I woke up at 4am, and we were here by 9am...)

This was about 1/2 hour later. The parking lot was only half full at this point. There were still 3 more hours of a constant stream of motorcycles coming in from all over.
If you know me in real life, then you know I love two things: talking to people and hearing their stories.....I met some real characters today.

Each patch tells a story. Each shirt has memories. And the stories they do tell. I shook hands with men who served their country proudly, some in Vietnam, some in Iraq. Some just there to show their love and appreciation for the finest military in the WORLD.

Speaking of fine military men, here's MY favorite soldier: Greg. It always strikes me how much taller he is than me when I see the rare picture of us....
We hung out in the parking lot at the Pentagon for about 4 HOURS until the demonstration started. We were in good company though so it was fun. I learned that even though many people are there on their tricked out bikes and dressed to the 9's, this event is NOT about the bikes. It's about showing respect and honoring the Fallen. And the lost and left behind.
As we started out on the route, I was so happy to see the huge crowds of people, showing their support, with hand-slapping, high-fivin', flag-wavin' best of the American Spirit.

Out of everything I saw today that made me proud, that made me damned glad to be an American. it was THIS that made me cry: It's a lone Marine, holding his salute from the start of the demonstration of Rolling Thunder AND HOLDING IT WITHOUT CEASING UNTIL THE LAST BIKE ROLLS THROUGH.....
This might not sound like a big deal, but this Lone Marine holds his salute for about 5 HOURS.

The guy parked next to us was a Marine (Rick from NY) and he told me the story. And that one was the ONE photo I was determined to get. I'm so glad that I did......and to pay homage to the Marine who shared his stories with me, I share with you his favorite vest patch:

Please honor our Fallen. This weekend is not just about BBQ and getting an extra day off. It's about honoring the sacrifice.
If you're so inclined, please consider a gift to one of the following:


lovebeingamom said...

Wonderful article Suzanne! thank you for sharing - as I never knew the Rolling Thunder history. Absolutely love the rockin' pic of you and hubby! you are definitely the coolest mom I know!
Love you bunches!

Linda said...

Suz - what a beautiful tribute. I love all the pictures...and I would love to hear some of the stories behind the pictures.

And I am SO glad you were able to capture the saluting Marine. There is a story that I have never heard...I am glad you were able to share it with us.

Berry Patch said...

Thanks for sharing this. The marine who holds his salute got to me. It truly is a day of memory & honor.

Marine Wife said...

I came over from SpouseBuzz. Thanks for sharing this. It gave me chills and made me cry!