We first attended this event in 2005 and were awestruck by the numbers of motorcycles staging for the ride commencing at Noon sharp, by the people on the overpasses waving, waving flags, holding signs proclaiming "Thank you," "Never Forget," and "Ride On!" We were awestruck by this event, by the people, the oppressive DC heat reflecting back from the Pentagon parking lot, by the ride to the Lincoln heading up 23rd to salute a lone Marine holding vigilant salute, turning on to Constitution Avenue and flying past the hundreds and thousands of spectators (many there on motorcycles as well), riding past the capitol building, down Massachusetts to find parking amidst thousands of others in baseball fields of the city. We were awestruck.
Truly, we were awestruck by a cause far bigger than ourselves. A cause we believe in keeping alive for those whose voices cannot be heard - a cause we'd ridden for previously, but never on such a tremendous scale. A cause so sadly necessary because our government has allowed American soldiers to be left behind and not brought home, not rescued from prisons, not released from their anguish.
Our lawmakers can sit in their air-conditioned homes and cars and offices and make laws and espouse proclamations, all the while soldiers who served their country and ended up imprisoned and missing for the causes of lawmakers, for the freedoms each of us enjoys, for our American ideals abroad and at home, for our very way of life.....these soldiers, our POW/MIAs suffer and wait and wonder. Our lawmakers, officials, and presidents through the years have continued to allow our soldiers to languish in filthy, horrific, lonely, and terrifying prisons, jungles, deserts, and frozen soils while these powerful men and women enjoy a comparatively luxurious lifestyle. Periodically an attempt or two has been made, but usually only spurred on by family members or veterans, and rarely.
We, those of us civilians, sit at home and watch TV, play on our computers, download music, play golf and tennis, go to the movies, go to the ice cream shops for a cone, go grocery shopping, buy new cars and motorcycles, picnic with our friends and families.
Prisoners of War do none of those things. They suffer torture, injuries, brainwashing, mind games, filthy living conditions, and absence of love. Missing in Action are unknown in whereabouts, suffering or dead, unknown to us all.
And we sit at home.
When hubby and I attend Rolling Thunder we camp rather than stay in a crisp clean hotel, that is our choice. Some camp in tents, some in cabins, some under the stars. Some stay in hotels. The first year we attended Rolling Thunder some of my family thought I was too prissy to go camping. It wasn't about the camping to me. It was about the cause. And then came the first morning shower in a public bathhouse at camp: water a couple of inches deep up over shoes - had it backed up from plugged drains or was it a toilet overflow? It was ALL OVER the entire bathhouse. BUT, if this was camping, I would do it. I turned on the shower: ICY COLD WATER. OK, I would do it and pray I got no disease from the slimy water covered floor. If my dad could withstand the winter trenches in Europe in WWII, if my hubby could withstand the jungles and monsoons of Vietnam, if POWs could withstand foreign military prisons, then I could and would do this. I did. I came home and told the family what a fabulous trip it was. And I was telling the truth.
I learned a lesson in the first shower at camp in 2005. The trip wasn't about camping. It wasn't about me (even though it most likely sounds that way, my apologies). It wasn't about a holiday weekend vacation. It was about raising a voice for those who have no voice to be heard by those who most need to hear it.
Our lawmakers, President, and government officials must NEVER FORGET. They must remember. They must do all they can to bring home their fellow American who have been forgotten, who have been left behind, who do not live as free Americans after serving their country's orders to go and fight for other peoples' human rights and dignity.
Our fellow Americans must NEVER FORGET. Not one soldier should ever ever be left behind. And the ones here should be allowed the right to go back and bring them home. Period. If the government won't do it, our veterans and current military should be allowed to go in search of their brothers and sisters in arms.
Our fellow Americans must stand up and raise a mighty voice so that Washington understands that we, the American people, will not rest until all of us are home for, indeed, our soldiers are our family members and friends: brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins, children, friends, aunts, uncles. We all know someone who has served or is serving. We all have a stake in bringing our loved ones home.
POWs and MIAs deserve their human rights. They deserve recognition. Most of all, they deserve to come home.
Rolling Thunder......may it continue to rumble until each and every POW/MIA is home.