On Saturday I attended a ceremonial Wreath laying at the United States Navy Memorial here in DC. The Wreath was laid by the Rolling Thunder organization.
The United States Navy Memorial was founded in 1977 and dedicated October 13 1987. The Lone Sailor statue – one speaker described him as "Lone but never Alone".
He overlooks the Granite Sea - an exact replication of the world's oceans as seen from one mile above the earth's surface.
The southern hemisphere of the Granite Sea is surrounded by 26 bronze bas-reliefs commemorating various sea services.
Every Memorial Day tens of thousands of veterans ride into DC in what is called The Rolling Thunder. In 1987 Corporal Ray Manzo (USMC) approached veterans near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and asked them to help bring attention to American Prisoners of War left behind – his idea was to host a motorcycle run through the Nation's capital to show the country that abandoned American soldiers in Vietnam still mattered to their fellow servicemen.
The first run was 1988 when about 2,500 bikes roared into DC and news coverage consisted of about 4.5 seconds of coverage. The Vietnam Vets Motorcycle Club embraced the run and "Run to the Wall" was meant as a commemoration for those who served in Vietnam, living or dead, missing or present and accounted for.
The rider on the left asked me if I was video-taping their illegal turn. After he'd parked he spoke about the thousands of riders here and really how few tickets are given out for various violations:
After intense lobbying Congress recognized the POW/MIA flag in 1990 and designated it as "The symbol of our Nation's concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in South Asia, thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation". In 1998, Congress passed another law demanding that the flag be flown on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, POW/MIA Recognition Day and Veterans' Day.
The flag had been designed in 1971 for the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia – a group organized to lobby for the release of all prisoners and repatriation of remains from the Vietnam War. The flag was designed by Mary Hoff whose husband was a Navy pilot shot down over Laos in 1970 and listed as MIA.
In the center of the black banner is a white circle with a rifle-bearing soldier in a watchtower sitting behind the silhouette of a young man and a single strand of barbed wire. The letters POW and MIA are separated by a five point star and the bottom wreath has the words: You are not forgotten.
In 2000 an amazing 250,000 motorcycles rolled into DC and numbers have remained fairly constant since – it is not just veterans who ride now but also civilians.
This gentleman and I were talking about the beautiful bikes - he said that he wished he was as young as I am because then he'd be riding. He'd picked out that maroon bike as it matched his shirt! :
After the ceremony I checked out the Naval Heritage Center (museum) which was quite interesting:
Anyone who has just watched the mini-series "The Pacific" will recognize this name (on the commemorative wall).