Thunder at the US Navy Memorial…


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).



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22 responses

  1. Thank you Katie – I took over 200 photos of their bikes too! LOL – I have a lot of sorting through shiny chrome to decide which ones of those to post. My arm & shoulder are slowly getting better – I can wash my hair with both hands now and do up necklaces. The Roman salute movement is coming back much quicker than lifting my arm up sideways – and it seems that it might be a very long time before I can do my bra up at the back again!!

  2. Thank you cranky. Yes I found the little memoriam messages sobering – I got teary when I saw "riding with an angel" on that bike. It's nice to see attention given to those still missing in action – something that I think is important. Today is the day they ride en-masse to the Vietnam Memorial – an impressive sight I have witnessed before – it is impossible not to be moved when all those bikes roar along Independence Avenue.

  3. What a wonderful post for Memorial Day Emjay! I absolutely love that you visit so many sites and happenings in our Nation's capital and share them with us. Most of us have never been to D.C. and may never go and couldn't possibly see all the sites in one visit anyway. Thank you so much for doing that. I am a U.S. Navy Veteran myself. I went in right at the end of the Vietnam war and thank goodness never had to see war time. I am very patriotic and my goosebumps are running hard right now.

  4. The motorcycle ride was a great idea. Looks like a festive and important day! Numbers are important so good to hear that civilians ride as well.

  5. How wonderful!This got me choked up and covered with goosebumps, too!I think I would have a hard time not crying with awe at all of this. I am SO glad our servicepeople get honored now, instead of scorned. We DID learn something from Viet Nam.

  6. It was a wonderful way to bring attention to a group that were mostly forgotten outside immediate families. I'm sure the founding members are surprised by the extent that the group has grown over the years.

  7. Yes, it must have been very tough for those vets coming home. The initial ride certainly touched a nerve with veterans and it's incredible how it grew. It is impossible to stay dry-eyed when you see them riding en masse into the city with the POW/MIA flags.

  8. This is an awesome post. You always get such wonderful photos of events and the people who attend them. I especially appreciate all the details you share…I always learn something.

  9. Right! How nice to see something be a success as time goes on. It's great when a nonprofit or otherwise good cause finds a way to "promote" itself and grow.

  10. Thank you LBeeeze. I am so lucky to live in a place where something seems to happen every weekend. Thank goodness there was no slick on the replica. 😦

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