ROLLING THUNDER(R) STORY
In the fall of 1987, in a little diner, in Somerville, New Jersey, two Vietnam veterans met to discuss their personal concerns about the prisoners of war (POW's) and military service personnel missing in action (MIA's) from the Vietnam War. Having honorably served their country, and having taken an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies..." and to "bear true faith and allegiance to same," they were deeply troubled by the abhorrent neglect of attention given to those who did not make it out with their lives or their freedom. These two veterans discussed the more than 10,000 reported sightings of live Americans living in dismal captivity. Intelligence reports sightings were generally ignored by the government and mainstream press. These two veterans were Artie Muller and Ray Manzo.
THE FIRST ROLLING THUNDER(R) DEMONSTRATION
Artie and Ray were ordinary men who understood that they had a right to have their voices heard and proceeded to lay down the plans for a gathering in Washington , D.C. during the 1988 Memorial Day weekend. John Holland, Walt Sides and Ted Sampley worked on getting the permits for the demonstration. They reached out to their familes, fellow veterans and veteran's advocates to unify and form a march demonstration in the nations Capital. Their arrival would be announced by the roar of their Harley Davidson's, a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder, Hence, they would call themselves "Rolling Thunder" a title that would endure time and be trademarked in 1990. Word spread quickly and by Memorial Day weekend in 1988, approximately 2,500 motorcycles from all over the country converged on Washington D.C. to demand from our leaders a full accounting of all POW's and MIA's. As they made their stand that day in front of the Capitol, Artie and Ray reflected thankfully for the people who came in support of the POW's and MIA's, and for the unity that was felt. This was Rolling Thunder's first demonstration. Only until All POW/MIA's ARE ACCOUNTED FOR, it will not be their last. On that day, the foundation was laid for the annual "ride for Freedom" to the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall (also referred to as the "Ride to the Wall")
ROLLING THUNDER(R) TODAY
The number of motorcycles participants in the Memorial Day weekend Ride For Freedom has grown from 2,500 to over hundreds of thousands; not to mention the tens of thousands pedestrian onlookers and participants. These numbers have brought increasing notoriety to our cause, but it has not been without consequences. Since motorcycles have become synoymous with the Rolling Thunder name, it has created a misconception of the organizations true objectives and purpose and has sometimes overshadowed our many accomplishments and contributions to veterans and our local communities. It is not a "Motorcycle Club".