With Memorial Day on Monday, this weekend marks the 30th Annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride in the nation's capital in support of POW and MIA service members.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of bikers and spectators converge on Washington, D.C. to ride the same route in honor of the country's prisoners of war (POW) and soldiers missing in action (MIA).
The first Rolling Thunder event in 1987 had 2,500 bikers participating. In recent years, the number of bikers and spectators has approached one million.
The yearly ride is put on by Rolling Thunder, Inc., a non-profit organization comprised mostly of motorcycle-riding veterans, though neither is required to join. The organization and yearly ride gets its name from the 1965 Air Force bombing campaign in Vietnam, known as Operation Rolling Thunder. But don't judge the group's biker image. Every year, members of the organization log thousands of hours volunteering at VA hospitals and other charity causes.
Many in the motorcycle community were diehard supporters of then-candidate Trump, with the organization Bikers for Trump even showing up to rallies to dissuade protesters from turning violent. While you can expect to see a fair number of Donald Trump flags at the event this weekend, the organizers are primarily trying to get a message across to members of Congress about American POW and MIA service members.
The main thing we want is accountability. We want to find them and we want to bring them home. That's our mission," explained one biker who participates in the ride every year. "The mission isn’t done. And we’re going to be here until it is."
In recent years, the Rolling Thunder ride have also advocated reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that American military veterans receive the medical care they deserve. Under the Obama administration, the VA was plagued with scandals after news broke that waiting times at some facilities were so long that veterans actually died waiting to see a doctor. Many in the community are hopeful that President Trump will bring about much needed reforms in the VA.
This weekend, the official Rolling Thunder ride will take place on Sunday, May 28. The rally point will be the north and south parking lots at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and both lots will be open starting at 7 a.m.
From the Pentagon, riders will cross the Memorial Bridge and ultimately disband once they reach Franklin D. Roosevelt Park.
D.C. Metropolitan Police and the District Department of Transportation have both published the streets that will be closed for the parade route. Motorists should expect heavy traffic and plan alternative routes as the following roads will be closed Sunday between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.:
- Memorial Bridge in both directions.
- Constitution Avenue, NW from 23rd Street, NW to 3rd Street, NW in both directions.
- 3rd Street, SW from Constitution Avenue, NW to Independence Avenue, SW in both directions.
- Independence Avenue, SW from 3rd Street, SW to West Potomac Park, SW in both directions.
- All northbound traffic across the 14th Street bridge will be diverted to eastbound I-395 (SE/SW Freeway).
- 12th Street Tunnel will be closed to all northbound traffic.
- The 9th Street Tunnel will be closed to all southbound traffic.
- There will be no closures of the 3rd Street Tunnel, but officials warn that traffic may be heavier than normal, due to the other closures.
Are you going to be at the Rolling Thunder Freedom Ride this weekend? Let us know in the comments who are you riding for!