• Alexander Fernandez

As the Thunder Fades

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

VIENNA, Va.- Rolling Thunder, is a ceremony where veterans and loved ones honor those who fell during combat. The tradition of gathering families and riding motorcycles to Washington D.C. began. A record 500,000 Rolling Thunder motorcyclists attended the final Rolling Thunder D.C. The tradition started in 1988 and lasted until Memorial Day, May 27, 2019.

Men, woman, and children gathered to hear the roar of thousands of motors which spanned for miles. These people were about to witness the last descent of die-hard motorcycle enthusiasts as they journey to the nation's capital. Motorcyclists wore an assortment of veteran attire from Vietnam to the Afghanistan war. Riders and their families from around the world gathered together outside of the Fairfax Harley Davidson motorcycle dealer and shop to hear live music and get a quick bite to eat before getting ready to embark on what would be the last journey these motorcyclists would do towards Washington.

“I was dying to participate, and knowing it probably would be the last time, I finally did. It was very well organized and good camaraderie. All kind and brands of motorcycle participated. I had a chance to talk to someone from the Netherlands who shipped his motorcycle to participate in this event. It was a bit emotional to see that many people saluting us when passing by from the side of the road and bridges. It was a great experience. I would do it again if I ever get the chance," Alejandro Fernandez realtor and participant of Rolling Thunder said. The 31-year-old tradition reached its end at the Pentagon's parking lot on Memorial Day, May 27, 2019.

In an interview with Justin Wm. Moyer, a reporter for the Washington Post, Pete Zaleski, national vice president of Rolling Thunder Inc said, why the organization would no longer continue their yearly ride into Washington D.C.

“Reasons which determined our decision were the Pentagon Security Police/Washington Police officials continued lack of cooperation, increased harassment to our supporters and sponsors.” According to a Washington Post article titled: Rolling Thunder says 2019 motorcycle rally will be its last in D.C.

President Trump tweeted,

"The Great Patriots of Rolling Thunder WILL be coming back to Washington, D.C. next year, & hopefully for many years to come. It is where they want to be & where they should be. Have a wonderful time today. Thank you to our great men & women of the Pentagon for working it out!" @realDonaldTrump. President Trump advocated for the tradition to stay alive, and for organizers to receive the support needed to continue onward for generations to come.

Sue Gough, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, said in a statement to CNN,

“Rolling Thunder Inc. pays a portion of what others pay to make reservations to use Pentagon facilities.”

The Rolling Thunder corporation may pay a smaller portion than other organizations to use the Pentagon’s facilities, but whatever cost charged, the men and woman of Rolling Thunder already paid it with their service to the country.

The organization will continue to host regional gatherings to honor those fallen in combat (Cole). As for gatherings outside the Pentagon, only time will tell if those glorious motors will be heard roaring down the streets to the Pentagon’s lawn.

By Alex Fernandez




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