Do you see that Marine saluting? He stood in the same position from noon on May 23 until 3:15 pm when the last of the thousands of Rolling Thunder motorcycles crossed the Memorial Bridge in parade formation from the Pentagon and headed down Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC. He volunteered.
Every veteran in the parade had an American flag on the back of his bicycle, and most added a POW/MIA flag. The vast majority of the bikers were from the Vietnam era with their leather vests covered with patches reminding us of how our Country failed to support them back then. Those were war-tough veterans on the bikes. At least until they got to The Wall.
It was not unusual to see those same bikers reaching out to The Wall to touch the name of a comrade who did not return from Vietnam. Many others sat by the wall and wept. The ground at the foot of The Wall was covered with American flags, unit insignia, notes, poppies, and teddy bears.
Children, probably grandchildren of the men whose names appeared on The Wall, sobbed when reading grandfather’s name.
The Wall has been there for over 25 years now. Many of these bikers have come to The Vietnam Memorial every year to honor their fallen comrades. It goes without saying that they will return and return as long as they are able to do so.
We spent most of the day passing out American flags to children and poppies to adults. Late afternoon we were approached by a woman wearing a picture button with the words Bill Callahan KIA Iraq April 27, 2007. We did not need to ask — we knew she was his mother. SSGT William Joseph Callahan, USMC, died in Iraq leaving behind a wife and a three month old daughter whom he had never seen.
After a long conversation and a promise that we would send a Gold Star banner, Mary Ellen Callahan left with as many American flags as she could carry. On Memorial Day she went to Arlington National Cemetery to place those flags on the graves of her son and those buried around him.