Events

May 30, 2012

Rolling Thunder gathers for 25th ride at Pentagon

Tags:
by C. Todd Lopez
Army News

At the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., thousands of motorcyclists gathered to participate in the 25th “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally, May 27, 2012. The event is in its 25th year now. Participants from around the United States gathered at the Pentagon before embarking on a ride around the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This year’s Rolling Thunder coincides with the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War. Many of the participants in the rally are veterans of that war. The rally brings attention to prisoners of war and those missing in action.

“The guy in the cage over there kind of put a knot in my stomach,” said Vietnam veteran Ron Lambert.

On a grassy hill overlooking the north parking lot at the Pentagon, Lambert sat with his wife of 40 years, Eileen. In the lot below, teeming with chrome and leather, was the largest portion of an estimated 400,000 motorcyclists who would participate in the 2012 Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” around the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 27, as part of Memorial Day weekend events in the nation’s capital.

The event, now in its 25th year, is meant to draw attention to service members who went missing in action and are still missing, or who were captured as prisoners of war and who have yet to be returned home.

Off on one side of the parking lot was a trailer with a bamboo cage sitting on top. Inside the cage was an elderly, bearded, shaggy-haired man in tattered clothing. He grasped the cage walls, looked out, and said nothing; but the signs on the trailer said it for him: “Vietnam, Korea, WWII.” He represented POWs from those wars, the focus of the Rolling Thunder rally.

“It’s to honor all the veterans that lost their lives, and for the ones that are not back yet,” Lambert said. “Look at it. You can’t beat this.”

Lambert and his wife, whom he met in high school, rode to Rolling Thunder from upstate New York. Lambert had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968, when he was 17 years old. He served in Vietnam with the 1/9 3rd Marine Division as an infantryman.

“I’d graduated from high school and had to do something,” he said. “There was nothing to do, once I graduated. I was a foster child, so when I graduated high school I had nowhere to live, so I went in the service.”

This year, the United States also recognizes the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War. And times have changed, Lambert said, for service members returning home after a conflict.

“It’s a major difference,” he said. “We landed in California and we took our uniforms off. It was a different time. They were all looking down on us. Now you’re proud to have it on. The less people that knew (about our service), the better.”

Roy Powell said he’s glad to see the attitudes of Americans have changed from the way they were when he got back from Vietnam, to the way they honor Soldiers today.

“I’m very happy to see that,” he said. “Just because of the way we were treated when we came home. A lot of guys I know had bad experiences when they came home; people would sneer at them. I’ve heard of people being spit on and called names. It’s nice they treat the veterans a lot better today than when I came home.”

Powell, of Forsyth, Mo., left the Army as a sergeant in 1970, after enlisting in 1964. He served in Vietnam as a military policeman. He’d been medically evacuated out of Vietnam after serving in places like Saigon, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, and Can Tho.

“They moved me around a little bit,” he said. “We did convoy escort and river patrol and things like that. We used to assemble convoys at the Saigon ports; the ships would come in and unload their cargo and put it on trucks. And we’d escort the convoys to Long Binh and Bien Hoa. We’d have a jeep in front with a machine gun, and then a jeep in back with a machine gun. Unless it was a real long convoy (and) we’d have a jeep in the middle somewhere.”

This was his first time at Rolling Thunder, Powell said.

“This is the 25th anniversary of Rolling Thunder and the 30th anniversary of the Vietnam Memorial Wall,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do this. So I finally decided I’m going to do it.”

He rode because he wanted to bring attention to the needs of service members who have gone MIA or who were taken as POWs.

“The whole crux of the thing is we’re protesting the way the government is handling the POW/MIA issue,” Powell said. “We don’t think they are doing enough. They never really made the effort. We feel there were POWs left behind in Vietnam.”

Powell admitted it’s doubtful there are POWs alive today, however. He’s 68 himself, and imagines anybody who had been left behind would since have died. “They aren’t going to live that long,” he said.

There are still MIAs in Vietnam and the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command does send workers there to find and reclaim the remains of those service members.

Participants in Rolling Thunder aren’t just veterans of Vietnam. They also include veterans of operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom, as well as supporters of veterans. Also, the riders support MIA from current wars, including Operation Enduring Freedom.

Jerry “Stogie” Mongrain, who served in Vietnam as a soldier and who retired from the Army after more than 22 years, pulled from the inside pocket of his leather riding vest a sticker bearing the words “Riding for Bowe.”

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is an American soldier who was captured in June 2009 in Afghanistan, and who is currently being held by the Taliban.

“This is a protest ride, a reminder of we still have a lot of POW and MIA still out there, from all wars,” said Mongrain. “(Bergdahl) is a POW in the Middle East now. But they need to account for all, get the POWs back, and account for the MIAs.”





All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines May 29, 2015

News: U.S. Army chief opens door to embedding U.S. troops with Iraqi forcesĀ - After the fall of Ramadi, the Iraqi Security Forces need military and political leadership, Gen. Raymond Odierno says.   Business: No acquisition strategy yet for LCS frigatesĀ - Details of the new Littoral Combat Ship frigate program’s acquisition strategy are still being reviewed,...
 
 

News Briefs May 29, 2015

Finnish navy: Underwater intruder possible foreign submarine Finnish military officials say that an underwater object the navy chased last month in territorial waters and dropped several depth charges could have been a foreign submarine. A navy investigation released May 28 says that technical analysis did not provide sufficient proof of the presence of a submarine...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Chad Bellay

F-16 test pilots hit the ‘road’ to help train USAFE pilots

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Kyla Gifford Three F-16s assigned to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, on a refueling mission last year. Two F-16 test pilots from the 416th Flight Test Squadron recently returned from a &#...
 

 
Navy photograph

Its reign in the fleet over, naval Sea King helicopter now rests at Pax Museum

Navy photograph At more than 54 feet in length with a 62-foot rotor diameter, the mighty SH-3A Sea King helicopter sits in its final spot at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum. Designed as an anti-submarine warfare helicopter,...
 
 
boeing-korea

New Boeing Avionics Facility to enhance ROKAF readiness, affordability

Boeing formally opened a new avionics maintenance and repair center in the Yeongcheon Industry District of Daegu-Gyeongbuk Free Economic Zone May 28. The 10,000 square-foot facility will test and repair aircraft electrical syst...
 
 
Navy photograph by John F. Williams

ONR testing high-speed planing hulls

Navy photograph by John F. Williams A ship hull model attached to a high-speed sled moves through waves at the David Taylor Model Basin at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock, during Office of Naval Research -sponsored rese...
 




One Comment


  1. Thanks Todd~ What a great story and photos!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>