Rolling Thunder Salutes: Veterans’ Call to Action & Accountability


Rolling Thunder on Constitution Ave in Washington DC
Rolling Thunder on Constitution Ave in Washington DC

By: Juliette Adams

When will the American public truly become aware of the enormous contribution of veterans and the inadequate gratitude they receive? I stumbled upon the Rolling Thunder event a few years ago, a biker's parade honoring and advocating for veterans on Memorial Day weekend followed by a program of speakers and musical tributes to veterans on the National Mall. As an individual who spent one year in paramilitary services including three months in military basic training, I have tremendous respect for veterans. My attendance at Rolling Thunder has become a yearly highlight.

May 27, 2018 was their 31st annual celebration. From the Pentagon to along scenic Constitution Avenue and around the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial, tens of thousands of bikers rolled by. Bikers of all colors, singles riders and couples waved, demonstrated pride and focused on the cause of advocacy for veterans, especially those who fought in Vietnam.

Why does this event occur? The primary issue is accountability for the Prisoners of War (POW) and those Missing in Action (MIA). A POW a person who has been captured and imprisoned by the enemy in war while Missing in Action (MIA) is a casualty classification assigned to combatants, military chaplains, combat medics, and prisoners of war who are reported missing during wartime or ceasefire. There are more than 10,000 reported sightings of Americans living in dismal captivity overseas. Intelligence reports of these sightings were generally ignored by the government and mainstream press.

Major US conflicts are the War of 1815, Civil War, Spanish-American, World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. However Rolling Thunder's greatest attention is to the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The Korean War was fought between June 1950 and July 1953. More than 7,100 Americans were captured and 8,177 Americans were classified as MIAs. Even though an armistice (an agreement made by opposing side to stop fighting) resulted in the return of some of the soldiers, it is claimed that over 8,000 are still not accounted. The Vietnam War was fought between November 1955 and April 1975. Although 552 known soldiers survived as POWs and some were returned to the US through Operation Homecoming, more than 200 are still reported as MIA.

One could describe this annual event as "A Call Into Action" with a declaration that there are too many political cowards afraid and intimidated to act on behalf of the people in a divisive Republican-Democratic two-party state. Thus causing politics to degenerate into an obsession of gaining and retaining power rather than truly addressing the needs of the people. There were many calls. One call was for veterans to take up office in Congress. Another was for conservatism, an ideology somewhat vague, misconstrued and complex. What does political conservativism mean? It is a right one must demand as advocated and demonstrated by Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass? Or is it a God given natural right, defined by John Locke as the right of every person to life, liberty, and property?

Yet another call was made for voters rights and election reform legislation. It was moving that there was the acknowledgement of the nation's dishonor to men and women who were ordered to put their lives on the line followed by an apology to Vietnam veterans. Why it is that political leaders who make the decisions get off so scotch free while those on the ground sought to fight and destroy each other?

Attendees thanking Vietnam veteran's for their service
Attendees thanking Vietnam veteran's for their service

Of the many speakers advocating for and pleading for the POWs and MIAs return was John Le Boutillier, former Congressman of New York 6th district. He founded the Sky Hook II Project, which is dedicated to finding living POWs in Southern Asia. He shared a telling story of the US government broken promise to bring back Vietnam veterans. Another speaker told the story of American POWs who were transferred to other countries after the Korean War.

Chris Noel, a former actress and the manager of shelters for veterans in Florida during the 1990s also spoke. She shared words of empowerment as she affirmed that the Flame of Freedom, a torch that signifies the fight for freedom, must be carried on by the youth.

Is it not time Americans demand accountability for an update of their prisoners of war and those missing in action? It was great to be a part of the event where brave men and women honored.

Rolling Thunder® Inc. National is a class 501(c ) 4 non-profit organization with the watchwords "We Will Not Forget" founded in 1987 by veteran Ray Manzo and Artie Muller. The organization mission is to advocate, raise awareness and fundraise for issues and causes related to veterans' care including full accountability for the Prisoners Of War-Missing In Action (POW/MIA) of all wars.

Juliette Adams is the co-founder of The Frederick Press. She is also a Project Management Consultant specializing in community development initiatives and the author of the Gifted and Magical 95 percent mini-book series. She obtained her Bachelor in Business Administration from Howard University and Master in Security Policy/Law and Society from American University.