Was the 2019 Rolling Thunder ride the last one in Washington, D.C.? Not if President Trump can help it. Citing an uncooperative attitude from law enforcement and the rising cost of permits, a founder of Rolling Thunder said that 2019 may be the last year for such a ride.
The Rolling Thunder organization began in 1987 to advocate for POW/MIA (Prisoner of War, Missing in Action) members of the U.S. military. The group’s first demonstration was in 1988 and by 1995 the organization had incorporated. There are now 90 chapters across the country. The annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride has become a staple in Memorial Day weekend events over the course of the last thirty years.
This year, though, the question of viability for the motorcycle ride came into question by its leadership. When he heard about it, President Trump jumped into the fray, expressing his surprise and offering up his help. Vietnam veteran Artie Muller was interviewed on Fox and Friends Monday morning and he acknowledged President Trump’s support. He went on to say, even if the event doesn’t happen in 2020 in Washington, D.C., it will happen across the country. The plan is one of expansion, for the chapters to plan rides across the country. Saturday the president declared his support and by Sunday he tweeted his belief that the ride would continue in Washington, D.C.
Trump vowed Saturday to help the organization obtain the necessary permits for the annual Memorial Day weekend event, which features tens of thousands of bikers riding from the Pentagon to the National Mall, paying tribute to fallen U.S. service members.
“Can’t believe that Rolling Thunder would be given a hard time with permits in Washington, D.C. They are great Patriots who I have gotten to know and see in action. They love our Country and love our Flag. If I can help, I will!” Trump wrote.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2019
Monday, during his interview on Fox, Muller was told by Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America, that her organization is pledging $200,000 to help assure that the ride continues. The two organizations have worked together in the past.
“I just want you to know how much we appreciate your mission. Remembering is too important to forget,” she said.
Muller expressed his gratitude for the monetary offer, saying Rolling Thunder has worked with Wreaths Across America for years to honor the fallen.
How wonderful that she could make that offer. Did President Trump or someone on his staff call and let the Wreaths Across America organization know that Rolling Thunder could use some help? That is unclear but the good news stands on its own. Muller said that it’s not about legacy but the event will continue in all regions of America.
“We’re not really talking about a legacy here because we’re not going away. We’re just spreading out and we hope to get stronger. That’s what our idea is on this, so coast to coast — North, South, Midwest,” Muller said.
The annual event in Washington, D.C. may have gotten too big and costly, and a lack of respect for its participants may have glommed on to problems with local law enforcement and dwindling support from the Pentagon but the ride will continue elsewhere. An abundance of support is a good problem to have, whether it fits in Washington, D.C. anymore or not.