A couple of weeks ago when I was nearing my work outside of Los Angeles in Ontario, California, and running a bit late, I noticed that my usual freeway exit was backed up, so I went for the next one to get around the traffic. Once I started up the exit lane, though, I saw eight or nine Highway Patrol cars and even more motorcycle police with flashing lights, so I figured that there must be an accident and now I would really be late.
When I came a bit closer, though, I discovered that this was a traffic block to let a huge group of motorcyclists through, on their way to enter the Interstate headed east. I gave up on the idea of getting to work on time, and turned off the car to wait it out. What I observed was a group of motorcyclists larger than any I had ever seen, and what made it really special was that all riders were wearing something with the American colors on it, and each and every motorcycle had at least two flags flying - the Stars and Stripes, and the black POW-MIA flag. I watched in fascination for nearly 20 minutes as bike after bike after bike after bike went by, accompanied occasionally by a truck or car, also flying the flags. Many had signs on them saying "Run For the Wall" or "Ride For the Wall 2003", and I just had to see what this was all about.
What I found was that this was the first leg and the very beginning of the 15th annual cross-America trip to Washington, D.C., where, after picking up more riders at stops along the way, the group would arrive in Virginia on the Friday before Memorial Day, then would form a parade known as (no surprise here) "Rolling Thunder", starting at the Pentagon early on Memorial Day Sunday, and ultimately arriving at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial later in the day.
This annual pilgrimage was started in 1989 by just two Vietnam Veterans trying to raise awareness for those who fought in Vietnam, both to welcome their comrades home, and as recognition for those who have never returned, specifically addressing the issue of those who have not been accounted for at all. All along the way, the trip includes stops at VA hospitals, Vietnam War memorials, parades, radio and TV stations, and other appropriate locations, always conducted in a proper and respectable law-abiding manner. This is not a fund-raiser or an event for political gain; this is a journey from the heart. The point of it all is to make sure that veterans and POW-MIAs of Vietnam as well as all other wars are remembered, and the annual journey is open to anyone who shares the sentiment and wants to share their support.
Last year's event culminated in an absolutely incredible 500,000 participants, and this year's promises to at least equal that.
I can't imagine a more compelling way of showing support and remembrance for those who gave their very existence to assure our freedom and liberty. As we add the names this year of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq, let us hope and pray that they will be the last.
Happy Memorial Day, 2003.