Rolling Thunder rides into town this Memorial Day Weekend for the 28th year. DC locals may know a thing or two about their demonstration, but if you pass these motorcyclists on the road and are a bit curious—here are five facts about Rolling Thunder.
1.) Rolling Thunder started during the Vietnam War
Rolling Thunder first started out as a demonstration against the Vietnam War. Vietnam War veteran Ray Manzo was deeply distressed that many American soldiers killed in action in Vietnam and weren’t retuned home. Along with that, there were many prisoners of war that were just left behind. So Manzo, along with other Vietnam veterans, came to DC to shed light on the issue and bring awareness.
2.) Memorial Day was not chosen by accident
Manzo and the other Vietnam veterans had a vision when they came to DC for their demonstration ride; thousands of motorcycles riding past the pentagon, coming across Memorial Bridge and through the National Mall. Throughout the years, more and more riders come through and show their patriotism, riding past D.C. and United States iconic landscapes.
3.) Rolling Thunder got its name from the motorcycles
With so many motorcycles coming down across Memorial Bridge, it can be quite a spectacle. But not only is it something to watch, but it’s also something to hear. Rolling Thunder actually got its name from how the bikes sound when they come across the bridge. It’s so loud, it actually sounds like Rolling Thunder.
4.) Rolling Thunder has enacted real change
Rolling Thunder’s mission is to display patriotism, pay respects to those fallen soldiers and bring awareness to those KIA and who are POWs. Shortly after the first few events, Rolling Thunder started writing a piece of legislation that was introduced into Congress, which eventually passed as the Missing Service Personnel Act of 1993. The bill established procedures for finding out if a military service member is a civilian, if they are missing, or if they are deceased. The Act was the born from the original ideas for Rolling Thunder and kept its mission for the rest of history.
5.)Rolling Thunder has other events besides the actual ride
While the actual ride takes place on the Sunday before Memorial Day, there are numerous events throughout the weekend for Rolling Thunder. Friday night, there is a candlelight vigil at the Vietnam War Memorial to honor those who died fighting in the war and to remember why the demonstration run started in the first place. And on actual Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery hosts a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as a Memorial Day Parade in D.C. and a National Moment of Remembrance.