Mr. Speaker, each Memorial Day, families all over the nation plan their weekend barbeques and look forward to enjoying a long weekend. But despite the festivities, many of these folks don’t remember why we have the day off of work, and why we celebrate this national holiday.
But for the members of Rolling Thunder, in Houston, Texas, there is no question. Each year, they join together to help remind Americans across the nation of just why it is that we celebrate Memorial Day.
Rolling Thunder is a group of patriots who have made it their mission to honor our military heroes by bringing awareness through a motorcycle demonstration in Washington, D.C.
While many members are veterans, not all are; some are just patriotic Americans who wish to do their part. They unite together to demand accountability for our POWs and MIAs to be identified and brought home.
In 1987, a group of Vietnam Veterans gathered together to discuss the thousands of reported sightings of Americans still living in captivity. They were disturbed by the neglect from our government.
So, they decided to do something to force the government and media to acknowledge the horrific abandonment of our men and women overseas. After much brainstorming, the veterans came up with a unique idea.
They began reaching out to family, friends, fellow veterans, and advocates to assemble a group of patriots willing to stand up for our soldiers. In 1988, on Memorial Day, 2,500 men and women rode to our Nation’s Capital on their motorcycles.
Decked out in leather, wearing shades and bandanas, waving Old Glory, and riding 500 plus pounds of steel, they were a terrifying but inspiring bunch. The sound of over a thousand bikes riding in unison reminded many of the bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder.
Very powerful. Since then, that small group of veterans became known as Rolling Thunder. They are right thinking Americans with big hearts. The number of riders has increased every year, and now nearly 900,000 members belong to the Rolling Thunder.
There are currently 90 chapters throughout 32 states. Two of those chapters are back home in my great city—Houston, Texas. It’s hard to find a more patriotic state than Texas.
With 8 out of 10 Texans enlisting to serve our nation, it’s not a surprise that Texans are joining the ‘‘Ride for Freedom’’ this year. This year, like every year, on Memorial Day, Rolling Thunder chapters join together and ride to our Nation’s Capital.
These demonstrations are known as the ‘‘Ride for Freedom’’. This year, they celebrated the 31st Ride for Freedom. The ride begins at the Pentagon on Memorial Day.
At noon the riders, all at once, start their motorcycles and begin the ride to The Wall to show their continued support for our missing and fallen soldiers. They pay their respects.
Although the group may have started to bring attention to our POWs/MIAs from Vietnam, they want to make sure all soldiers are remembered. Today, the organization has branched out to include all wars and recognize that we still have an accumulated estimate of 86,788 unaccounted United States veterans.
Mr. Speaker, Rolling Thunder rides for our soldiers whose lives were given in pursuit of a great cause, American Freedom. I am proud to recognize these angels on bikes with hearts bigger than Texas. They make a difference and represent all that is right and good in America.
And that’s just the way it is.