Bikers ride down Constitution Ave. in Washington on May 29, 2011, during Rolling Thunder's 24th annual demonstration. Photo by David Pierce

Rolling Thunder: Good riding, friends, cause

The wall of sound created by hundreds of thousands of revving engines is now gone from America’s capital. But the spirit of the riders will long be remembered by all those who saw Rolling Thunder’s 24th annual motorcycle demonstration in Washington on May 29.

Riding along with Rolling Thunder were many American Legion Rider members, including Marty Justis, the Legion’s executive director of National Headquarters in Indianapolis.

“I made the trip to D.C. with about 30 fellow riders from Indiana and Illinois," Justis said. "It was a great time, but it always is when you mix good riding and good friends with a good cause like Rolling Thunder.”

Since 1988, the Rolling Thunder veterans organization has staged a motorcycle demonstration in the Nation’s Capital to promote its cause, “to bring full accountability for Prisoners Of War (POW) and Missing In Action (MIA) of all wars, reminding the government, the media and the public by our watchwords: ‘We Will Not Forget.’”

The event usually attracts 350,000 to 400,000 riders, who do not have to belong to Rolling Thunder to participate. That’s why so many American Legion Riders were also in town, riding their motorcycles from the Pentagon’s parking lot to the National Mall.

“It’s every rider’s chance to be part of an event that brings attention to a matter of importance to many families, and that is to know the fate of their soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who never returned from war,” Justis said. “I think all those who participate share a measure of pride in knowing that we’re helping to push for an answer for those families.”

While the annual demonstration gets good press coverage in the Washington area, Justis said the event should get more media attention around the country. “American Legion Riders can make a difference by participating in the demonstration every year, and by generating media attention beforehand in their own communities," he said.

Chapter by chapter, Justis said, Legion Riders can bring more attention to the annual event and reinforce the need to continue it until all POWs and MIAs are fully accounted for.

“Each year, before we head out to the Nation’s Capital, we can let the news people know The American Legion – and the Legion Riders particularly – care deeply about those who have yet to come home," Justis said.