Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And the Thunder Rolls

It has been a week since I last wrote. I took the Memorial weekend to spend some quality time with my husband. Much of it was spent working in the yard. We are well on our way to completing our new surround-tree flower bed. By this coming weekend, it should be complete. I'll share photos when that happens.

Yesterday was Memorial Day, as you well know. Perhaps you also know that Washington, D.C. plays host to a special event each year on this weekend. It's called Rolling Thunder because thousands upon thousands of motorcycles descend upon the area. My family in Kentucky may be reminded of Little Sturgis, which is the annual gathering of bikers in Sturgis, KY, a town of about 2000 residents that has a Presbyterian church, a Methodist church, a First Christian church, a Catholic church, and a Pizza Hut. This year the Little Sturgis Rally will be July 19-22. I hear it is a rip-roaring good time.

In contrast, Rolling Thunder is a more subdued occasion. It's primary purpose is to bring accountability for the POWs and MIAs who have given their lives or their freedom for our country. Their motto --- "We will never forget" -- is a powerful phrase. On a wider scale, the annual event has come to signify for many of us that we must honor ALL men and women who have fought and/or died for the freedoms that we hold most dear in this great country.

In years past, my husband and I have gone over to the Pentagon or into D.C. to watch the eye-catching parade of decorated and plain motorcycles. Some carry one person, some two, and some come complete with attached sidecar. They gather all morning in the Pentagon parking lots, and at the set time they depart from there and drive across Memorial Bridge at the foot of Arlington Cemetery, past the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument before dispersing to go their separate ways. They come no matter the weather, rain or shine, even in temps that can approach 100 degrees.

Sunday of Memorial weekend 2008 brought a cloudless sky and perfect chance to mingle with the crowd. That year my husband and I watched the procession of two and three-wheelers, and a few other vehicles with a pertinent point to make.

Recalling the original purpose of Rolling Thunder

A section of the Pentagon parking lot before the parade began

Viewing the procession from Memorial Bridge

This year, regrettably, we did not make it downtown for the occasion. But this video posted on You Tube is remarkable in that it condenses four hours of video into less than four minutes as every biker drives past the Saluting Marine near the Lincoln Memorial. It is riveting to me since I have been there to witness the procession in person in years past, and seeing it all take place in 4 minutes is amazing. This year was the 25th anniversary of the event, so it held special meaning.

In addition to the swells of crowds who brave the heat to gather along the parade route, another inspiring things to see each year is that people of all walks of life gather on overpasses throughout the Washington area to watch as the flotillas of bikers wind their way down the interstates and other thoroughfares in the hours leading up to the event and for hours afterwards. They bring children who are too young to walk, along with toddlers, teens and tweens. Hopefully they will remember the event and the feelings it evoked for the rest of their lives. Most memorably, those who gather in support often fly and wave American flags and carry homemade signs to rally the patriotic and to honor the GOOD that the armed services of this country have done both a home and abroad over he past many decades. Next to the Fourth of July, this event makes Memorial weekend Sunday the most patriotic day in the nation's capital.

Since we live so close to Washington, we saw and heard large numbers of bikers as they rolled into town in the week leading up to Sunday. Some riders make the event an annual vacation. Others hear about it, plan and save money for years, and travel across the country to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. All leave with a sense of having met others who, despite many differences on many issues, are of one mindset -- that this country is still great, that she is worth preserving, and, that in this important election year, we have to protect and defend that greatness.

I share that mindset. God bless the U.S.A. We will never forget.

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