8 Things You May Not Know About Rolling Thunder

U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers salutes the Rolling Thunder members as they travel to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial through downtown Washington, D.C., May 30, 2010. Thousands of bikers from across the United States turned out for the annual event that aims to raise awareness for the needs of veterans. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers salutes the Rolling Thunder members as they travel to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial through downtown Washington, D.C., May 30, 2010. Thousands of bikers from across the United States turned out for the annual event that aims to raise awareness for the needs of veterans. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

In 1987, two Vietnam War veterans met to discuss how they could bring awareness to prisoners of war (POW) and those missing in action (MIA) from the Vietnam War. Those veterans were named Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, and out of that meeting, Rolling Thunder was born. From that point on, veterans took to the cause, and every year on Memorial Day, they and thousands of others, ride into Washington D.C. in unison, flying the Stars and Stripes beside stark black POW/MIA flags.

Here are some other facts you may not know about Rolling Thunder and the history behind it.

1. Rolling Thunder Inc. is not a motorcycle rally. It is a demonstration for POW/MIA accountability of all wars, reminding the government, the media and the public: “We Will Not Forget.”

2. The number of participants/spectators for the first Rolling Thunder in 1987 was 2,500; the last demonstration was estimated at 900,000.

3. Rolling Thunder, Inc. is a non-profit organization comprised mostly of veterans — many of whom ride motorcycles. — neither qualification is a prerequisite to join.

A mass of motorcycles and people fill the Pentagon's North Parking lot May 29 as hundreds of thousands of riders from throughout the country gather for Rolling Thunder 2005. The annual ride, which began in 1988 pays tribute to those killed in Vietnam and remembers those missing from all conflicts. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie Thurlby, USAF

A mass of motorcycles and people fill the Pentagon’s North Parking lot May 29 as hundreds of thousands of riders from throughout the country gather for Rolling Thunder 2005. The annual ride, which began in 1988 pays tribute to those killed in Vietnam and remembers those missing from all conflicts. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie Thurlby, USAF

4. The demonstration gets its name from the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed “Operation Rolling Thunder.”

5. Rolling Thunder Charities, Inc. is a non-profit organization that helps raise funds for veterans, active duty military and their families in need of help.

6. Rolling Thunder Inc. has advocated and/or co-authored legislation to improve the POW/MIA issue, veterans’ benefits, concerns and interests as follows.

7. Rolling Thunder, Inc. veterans speak to youth groups about the honor of serving their country and educating them about the POW/MIA issue.

8. Thousands of hours are logged by Rolling Thunder, Inc. members at local VA hospitals nationwide.

Three Vietnam veterans listen to the speakers at the Rolling Thunder XIX Ride for Freedom at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 28. Photo by Sgt. Sara Wood, USA

Three Vietnam veterans listen to the speakers at the Rolling Thunder XIX Ride for Freedom at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 28. Photo by Sgt. Sara Wood, USA

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  • Beto Sabio

    Are there also Outlaws, Hells Angels, and other “biker clubs” mixed in with the VietVets pictured in article?

    Did many just change “their colors” for “Rolling Thunder”?

    • ingram1225

      Could be but what is the point of your question sir or ma’am? Not all members of the Outlaws, Hells Angels, and other biker clubs are bad people. Rolling Thunder Inc. Is doing something that is positive and that’s alright with me.

      • karen

        I’m with you on this one, ingram1225! My sister’s late fiance was a biker and she has been surrounded by their biker family, including Hell’s Angels, with love and support. Many are good people who do many good things. There will always be the a-holes who ruin it for everyone, like in any group anywhere. Many bikers are veterans, and they are loyal to their fallen buddies. Eric, you may want to double check your bias.

    • Eric Furgeson

      In answer to your question. Yes on fact many 1% bikers are Vets from Nam and every other conflict we have been involved in. And no they are not mixed in with any other clubs.The outlaw clubs would beat down or worse any memember that changed colors for any reason. Once a biker puts on a 1% clubs patch it is considered a life time commitment and an insult to his club brothers to wear any other colors.

    • Softail Rider

      None that I have noticed in the last 20 years attending this Protest. 20 years….haven’t seen an “outlaw” biker gang in the mix….go troll somewhere else Beto.

  • GJT

    I’ve, been doing Thunder for 10 years. Lets look at the big picture. 750 THOUSAND+, Bikers, from every walk of life and from all over the country, get together starting at 4 in the morning to demonstrate their patriotism and honor our veterans. We fellowship all day. No fights, no arrests, No burn out contest, no wet T-shirt contest, no drugs, no alcohol. 100’s of different Motorcycle Clubs including Christian, Vets, Cops, and others.
    And the discussion on this forum goes directly to “outlaw” biker gangs and 1%’ers. UGH!

  • CelticCat2015

    God Bless all of you who are members of Rolling Thunder!

    I pray everyone who reads this article will ‘share’ and ‘tweet’ it so others can learn of the good things this wonderful organization does for so many people.