Each year for the last 30 years, thousands of veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces have revved up their motorcycles and taken part in Run For The Wall, a 10-day long motorcycle ride from Ontario, Calif. to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.
The intention of the cross-country ride – which is done each year in the weeks leading to Memorial Day weekend – is to serve as a reminder to communities of the thousands of American servicemen and women who are still missing in action or currently prisoners of war.
After returning from his first RFTW two weeks ago, Marine Corps veteran Bill Jordan, of Campbell, is already looking forward to going on next year’s ride.
Once he – as well as fellow Campbell veteran Jim Yaw and Jim’s twin brother, Jammie of Farmers Branch – joined the caravan in Grand Prairie, Texas on the ride’s fifth day, they were all pleased by the warm reception they got, as they went through each town.
“All along the way, churches were taking us in, and it felt good to have those people support us and it made them feel good to do something for veterans,” Jordan said.
“The people in Whytheville, Va. were especially nice to us. The whole town was patriotic. I got to hang out with a kindergarten class while we were there and talk to the kids about our bikes and where we were from, because they said, ‘You talk funny,’” Jordan said as he laughed.
“Later, we watched the older kids do skits about different wars and sing songs. At the end of it, they all started chanting ‘U.S.A., U.S.A.’ It was all so refreshing,” Jordan said appreciatively.
When Jordan and his massive band of brothers and sisters in arms made it to Washington D.C., they joined another annual motorcycling event for veterans called Rolling Thunder, a demonstration parade that starts at the Pentagon and stops for ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.
“The Pentagon parking lot was completely full of bikes,” Jordan said. “Our group left our hotel, which wasn’t far from the Pentagon, at around 8:30 or 9 in the morning, and were lined up by the Rolling Thunder people when we got there, and the last bikes left the Pentagon at around 6 in the afternoon. That’s how many bikes there were.”
“Rolling Thunder is kind of a protest, where we say to our country, ‘Hey, what about all the POWs and MIAs?’” Jordan explained.
While visiting Arlington National Cemetery, Jordan took the time to visit Audie Murphy’s grave.
Sadly though, it was planned that 2019 would be the last year for the Rolling Thunder demonstration parade. According to the event’s founder Artie Muller, the decision was made because of escalating costs and increasing difficulties in getting cooperation from the Pentagon and the Washington, D.C. Police Department.
However, many veterans and POW/MIA advocates have pointed out a tweet made by President Donald Trump as a source of hope that Rolling Thunder may be able to continue.
The tweet read, “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!”
Even after the President’s tweet, a spokesperson for Rolling Thunder announced that the organization still does not plan to hold the rally in Washington next year.
“We appreciate absolutely the president tweeting about us and the fact that he wants to help us, but after this year, we will be going regionally...We will give people the chance who have never come to Washington, D.C,” Nancy Regg told CBS WUSA.
“We will not be back in D.C. next year,” she continued. “Several people have come forward and offered the money for us to do it...but at this point, at this moment, this was our last demonstration in D.C.”
“We have 364 days to change that,” Regg added.
However, regardless of whether or not Rolling Thunder meets in Washington D.C. next year, the Run For The Wall veterans cross-country motorcycle ride will continue each year for the foreseeable future.