WASHINGTON -- Veterans and bikers rallied at the nation’s capital May 28 for Rolling Thunder XIX, honoring U.S. prisoners of war, those still missing in action and all who have served under old glory.
More than 300,000 bikers, according to Rolling Thunder National Service Officer Michael DePaula, attended the patriotic gathering, flooding the Pentagon north parking lot with chrome, leather and military memorabilia.
“We were at max capacity by 10 a.m.,” said the 63-year-old Vietnam veteran. “They kept riding in so we had to set up an overflow point in the south lot.”
A rumbling began at noon when motorcyclists revved their engines and began the seven-mile course through Washington. Upholding the event’s namesake, bikers thundered along for five hours from the Pentagon to the Washington Monument shaking sidewalks and one-way streets.
“I can feel the ground vibrating when I sit down,” said Chandler Galvan, a 10-year-old Woodbridge, Va., native. “The bikes are cool, but the noise is my favorite part so far.”
Roll call included clubs from all services and different cultures, many traveling cross-country. The Latin American Motorcycle Association had three hundred members alone.
“I’ve been coming here for seven years, rain or shine,” said Bill “Cowboy” Sanchez, a 61-year-old Baltimore native who served in Vietnam from 1964 to 1966. “It gets better every year.”
Many bikers gathered at the National Mall once the event concluded.
“Riding with my brothers and sisters reminds me who I’m working for,” said House of Veterans’ Affairs chairman and Gulf War veteran Steve Buyer, R-Ind. “Every one of them is a patriot. They’re not here to make a statement about the war or the president; they’re here to support the men and women who are currently serving our country.”
For more information on Rolling Thunder, visit www.rollingthunder1.com.