Since 1987, the goal of Rolling Thunder has been to make certain that we, as a nation, never forget our service members who are prisoners of war, nor our missing in action. In 1988, four Vietnam War veterans, Corporal Ray Manzo, Sgt. Maj. John Holland, 1st Sgt. Walt Sides and Staff Sgt. Ted Sampley, determined to raise public awareness of the POW/MIA issue, organized the inaugural Rolling Thunder Demonstration Run through the streets of Washington, D.C.
About 2,500 riders participated that year. In 2012, more than 1.3 million attended the 25th Rolling Thunder, with an estimated 500,000 bikes in the run—making it the world’s largest single-day motorcycle event.
Each year, people from the four corners of this great country gather in Washington to remember and honor those who loved our nation so much that they purposely placed themselves in harm’s way to ensure our freedom.
The Department of Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office reports that there are currently more than 83,000 missing service members from conflicts dating from World War II to the 1991 Gulf War. At Rolling Thunder XXVI, we will humbly pay tribute to them for their service and sacrifice as we share our message with their families that “your loved one will never be forgotten.”We pledge to do all we can to ensure our government does not rest until all of our POWs are home and MIAs are accounted for.
With this in mind, we continue to press the U.S. government to do all it can to secure the safe and immediate release of the only current American prisoner of war, Sergeant Bowe R. Bergdahl, United States Army, who has been held captive by the Taliban for nearly four years.
We are honored to once again “welcome home” all of our veterans. America is the greatest country on earth, thanks to your service and the support of your families.
Rob Wilkins, Master Sgt. (ret.)
Rolling Thunder Board of Directors
Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.