DC motorcycle rally will highlight POW/MIA issues and suicide prevention

Julia LeDoux
September 20, 2019 - 2:03 pm
Rolling Thunder ride

Photo by Connecting Vets

AMVETS will be “Rolling to Remember” next Memorial Day weekend.

The veterans’ advocacy group announced during a press conference Friday that it is picking up the tradition of, Rolling Thunder, a massive motorcycle demonstration ride in Washington, D.C. over the holiday.

“In an era where individuality is celebrated, there are many of us who want to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” said AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly. “That demonstration ride is just that.”

AMVETS National Commander Jan Brown said the nride will focus on both POW/MIA accountability and suicide prevention.  She added that it was likely that while she was speaking a veteran somewhere in the country would take his or her own life.

“Suicide is preventable, mental illness is treatable. We must assure that those in need know they are not alone,” said Brown.

AMVETS presser
Photo by Julia LeDoux

Statistics show that approximately 20 veterans commit suicide each day, she continued.

After 32 years, Rolling Thunder Inc. announced in December of 2018 that this year’s ride would be it's last due to financial and other reasons.

“We have tremendous respect for what Rolling Thunder has accomplished in the past and we absolutely wish that organization and its members the very best in their future endeavors,” Chenelly said.

A series of events are planned for the weekend, beginning with the Blessing of the Bikes held at the afternoon of Friday, May 22, at Washington National Cathedral.

"Divine intervention never hurt anyone and it’s a great way to start,” said Marine veteran Mac MacDonald.

Following the bike blessing, a vigil will take place at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On Saturday, speakers will take to a stage at the Lincoln Memorial and at Harley Davidson of Washington.

All of that is a warm-up for the main event – the motorcycle demonstration on May 24.

“Hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists and more who want to make a difference will gather and ride past the White House, the Capitol Building, around the National Mall and to the Wall,” Chenelly said. “We believe the nation will pause to watch, to learn why so many patriots are rolling in from all over to demonstrate.”

AMVETS filed paperwork back in May requesting approval to use the Pentagon as a staging area Sunday morning, he said.

“We pledge to be great stewards of the parking lot to provide a safe, responsible and respectful environment,” Chenelly said. “We made the same pledge to the National Park Service, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia.”

Retired Marine Warrant Officer and AMVETS chief advocacy officer Sherman Gillums said service members who battle depression, isolation, pain, addiction, family problems and other trauma who consider suicide are “missing in action.”

“Like those who were captured in Nazi Germany and North Vietnam, who were attacked and beaten during the Bataan  Death March, shot down over Iraq and held prisoner in Afghanistan, we will never forsake all those who fight daily to free themselves from confinement,” he said.

“To the missing and their families, you are not forgotten,” Chenelly said. “We will not stop fighting for you.”       

AMVETS to keep Rolling Thunder DC event going in 2020

Rolling Thunder announces plans for 2020

Reach Julia LeDoux: Julia@connectingvets.com

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