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Monday, May 25, 2009

RFTW 2009 - Rolling Thunder (Doug)

Sunday morning was Rolling Thunder - all the bikes come together in the Pentagon parking lot and run to the Wall. The term comes from the Vietnam War and is descriptive of one of the sounds of war and power. When 400,000 motorcycles start their engines, you can hear them for blocks. At 0530 I'm up and ready to go. Off to the Pentagon and find that the lot all ready has a few thousand bikes staged. I take my bike to the "VIP Escort" area as I have the privilege of having a Gold Star Mom riding on my back seat. Their are a hundred or so of us and their are a couple of "deuce and halfs" for the GSMom's/Dad's that don't have helmets. Their is zero shortage for scoots, just a shortage of the required helmets. No shortage of GSM/D''s, unfortunately. We spend the next couple of hours talking to friends from different groups, listen to the scoot noises and basically relax. At 1100, a bus pulls into the far end and off step the Gold Star Mom's/Dad's. The riders sitting on a grassy hillside near the bus stand and applaud. As the GSM/D's start walking thru the assembled bikes, row after row of rider's stand, come forward and form a corridor that the GSM's/D's walk thru. And we cheer and salute as row after row comes to attention to recognize these brave people and the sacrifice they live with.

At 1145 the last of the bikes are staged. It started at about 0430 - over 6 hours. At 1155 a lone B52 does a low fly over and then at 1200, we roll. Many of the participants are Vietnam Vets, but everyone is there for the vets. Being in the Gold Star contingent, I'm out of the lot by about 1208, and passing a Marine SSgt standing at attention, presenting arms. (He had his orders to deploy delayed so that he could be there to render this honor) And he will hold that until the last bike passes. The ride goes a pretty good distance in a large circle - I'd say about 3 miles. 3 miles of 3 or 4 deep people waving, cheering, saluting, holding the signs, being very respectful. One of the largest turnouts I've ever seen. Wanting to high 5, touch, thank, salute - it is a great day for vets of all time. We stage at about 1245 (took that long to go around) and walk over to the Wall (I needed to get a couple of rubbings). We walk over to Thunder Alley, and watch the last bikes come thru to final staging - about 1545. And the Marine SSgt can order arms. An amazing site.

As we drove in the parade, we passed thousands of bikes that elected to sit and watch rather than do Rolling Thunder. THOUSANDS. I have no idea how many veterans were here nor do I know the final count on bikes in and/or around DC and/or the Pentagon.


1 comment:

SSgt Tim Chambers said...

Wonderful writing! I am the Marine rendering the salute, this year I had a weapon in front of me and the main focus on the salute was geared towards our fallen brothers and sisters. I did not have any orders delayed, however, I got sick with a staff infection and just got off a pick line so I did not conduct this salute on my own accord on leave with much physical strength but more of an inspiration....