Today, like every other Memorial Day Weekend for the past 22 years, Rolling Thunder – an eclectic band of cyclists from every walk of life - paid tribute to the men and women who serve their country in war and in peace.
Started in 1987 by Ray Manzo, a USMC corporal who wanted to call attention to military personnel still classified as Prisoners of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA) in the Vietnam conflict, Rolling Thunder has become a Memorial Day tradition. The rally takes its name from “Operation Rolling Thunder” – the constant bombing of North Vietnam in 1965.
Hailing from around the country – and even from around the world – some 500,000+ cyclists followed a route from the Pentagon parking lot, across the Memorial Bridge, up Constitution towards the Capitol and back down Independence to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial or The Wall.
Alexandria, with its close proximity to the Pentagon, is a natural staging ground for many of the cyclists and we had a chance to talk with a group from Texas wh0 were staying near-by. First up we had the father and son team of Jim and Chris Parson.
Jim, a spry 70yr. old, served with MacV (Military Advisory Command) in Vietnam and is here for his second “Ride to the Wall”. Son Chris will graduate this year from the University of Texas, Tyler and is making is first trip.
Tracy McCarver, also here for her second year, rides in honor of her father.
Our second father and son team, Christopher and Carl Crisco, represent our most recent veterans. Carl served in the Navy in Desert Storm and Chris was with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When I asked all of them why they came, why they rode thousands of miles, why they took the time, the words varied – respect, remembrance - but the sentiment was the same – Duty, Honor, Country.
Unfortunately Christopher also asked me a question, a question I couldn’t answer. “When,” he asked “is there going to be a memorial for the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan?”
Thank you Jim, Christopher and Carl for serving our country. Chris and Tracy, thank you for supporting your loved ones. Thank you for being here and for riding to remember those who still serve and those who are no longer with us. And if you come back next year, give me a call and we’ll raise one together!
Roll on, roll on . . .
P.S. – Be sure and drop us a comment to let us know you got back to Texas safely.