Washington, D.C.- Hundreds of thousands of riders have descended on D.C. every May since 1988 to pay tribute,honor, and bring attention to those service members who are still missing or are prisoners of war.
This year’s event takes place on May 26, 2019—- and is the last National one to be held in D.C. Members noted that rides will still take place with regional chapters, but this will be the last National Ride in Washington D.C.
From the Rolling Thunder Website– “The Founders of Rolling Thunder®, Inc., Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, were ordinary men who understood that they had a right to have their voices heard and proceeded to lay down the plans for a gathering in Washington, D.C. during the 1988 Memorial Day weekend. They reached out to their families, fellow veterans and veteran’s advocates to unify and form a march and demonstration in the nation’s Capital. Their arrival would be announced by the roar of their motorcycles, a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder. Hence, they would call themselves “Rolling Thunder®, Inc.” a title that would endure time and be trademarked in 1990. “
“Word spread quickly and by Memorial Day weekend in 1988, approximately 2,500 motorcycles from all over the country converged on Washington, D.C. to demand from our leaders a full accounting of all POW/MIA’s. As the Founders of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. made their stand that day in front of the Capitol, they reflected thankfully for the people who came in support of the POW/ MIA’s and for the unity that was felt. This was the first Rolling Thunder®, Inc. demonstration. Only until ALL POW/MIA’s ARE ACCOUNTED FOR, it will not be their last. On that day, the foundation was laid for the annual “Ride for Freedom” to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall (also referred to as the “Ride to the Wall”). The number of participants/spectators in the Memorial Day weekend Ride for Freedom has grown from 2,500 to an estimated 900,000. “
Vice President Pete Zaleski cites cost as one of the major factors in this decision. The event costs the organization approximately $200,000 last year; which included clean-up, porta-potties and security. A huge part of that expense is the coordination with the Pentagon.
Zlaenski wanted to make sure all riders understood that only this ride was affected. Local and Regional Chapters will still be planning their own rides.