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POW Issues at Forefront of Rolling Thunder Biker Rally in DC

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Motorcycles Video Topics:  Rolling Thunder

POW Issues at Forefront of Rolling Thunder Biker Rally in DC

Suzanne Presto
May 31, 2010

Video Version  6,437KB  Windows Media Player

Memorial Day [May 31] is a U.S. national holiday that pays tribute to Americans killed in military service. Each year during the three-day holiday weekend around Memorial Day, the veterans group known as Rolling Thunder rumbles into Washington, D.C. in a massive motorcycle caravan. The organization, with its roots in the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s, focuses attention on those who were held as prisoners of war and who are still listed as missing in action.

Thousands of motorcyclists ride from the U.S. Department of Defense, across Memorial Bridge with the Army-administered Arlington National Cemetery in the background, past a military officer who salutes them, past a crowd that shouts and applauds.

Artie Muller Visitor reading the names on the memorial wall
Photo: VOA - S. Presto
View photo, 49KB

Many of the cyclists, mostly men in their 60's and younger, wear black leather or denim vests decorated with patches that illustrate the wars they have lived through and their military service.

The powerful-looking motorcycles gleam in the midday sun. Mounted red, white and blue American flags flap beside stark black and white ones that show the profile of a prisoner of war.

The procession ends near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Rico Nuss, a member of Rolling Thunder, served in the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1972, with one year in Vietnam. He says the event is a show of support for those who cannot ride with them.

"We do it because it's important. It's not a parade. It's not a get together. It's a demonstration," says Nuss. "We want a full accounting of all our POWs".

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