Little did those first 2,500 riders in 1988 know that the Rolling Thunder Run would turn into an event with now over a million riders and spectators. It all started with Ray Manzo, a Vietnam veteran.
In 1987, Ray’s growing concern for the POWs and MIAs of Vietnam drove him to take action. Amid reports of remains not returned home and reports of live prisoners of war (POW) who were left behind when the war ended, Ray recruited fellow veterans Samply, Holland, and Sides. Together they began the process of organizing a motorcycle rally to draw awareness to the POW/MIA problem.
Memorial Day Display of Patriotism with the Rolling Thunder Run
The three vets chose a fitting time for the event – Memorial Day. From that first ride across the Memorial Bridge to today’s massive attendance of over a million it has evolved into a stirring display of reverence and patriotism for the military heroes that so bravely defends our country.
This year the Rolling Thunder Run begins on Friday, the 27th of May with a candlelight vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The following day Thunder Alley opens and the festivities begin. There are Rolling Thunder patches, T-shirts, and pins and other biker related goods.
On Sunday the 29th at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial there is a wake up call for all the motorcycle riders that will participate in the Rolling Thunder XXVIII First Amendment Demonstration Run. Departure is planned at noon. Policemen will direct the riders to West Potomac Park. Here they will pay their tribute to the fallen brothers and sisters.
That evening a concert is planned and then Monday there will be a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. There will also be an observance at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The Rolling Thunder National Memorial Day Parade
At 2:00pm on Memorial day there will be marching bands and veterans’ units that have come from all 50 states. At 3:00pm there will be a national moment of remembrance.
Sponsors for Rolling Thunder Run
As Rolling Thunder Run has grown over the years, so has their list of sponsors and sponsorship opportunities.
Among the sponsors are:
- Sheraton Hotels and Resorts
- Hilton Garden Inn Fairfax
- Crystal City Restaurant
- Crowne Plaza National Airport
- The RITZ-CARLTON/PENTAGON CITY
- Blackfinn Ameripub
- UNO Pizzeria & Grill
The mission of the Rolling Thunder Run has remained the same since Ray Manzo started in the late 80s. It is to never forget the service members abandoned after the Vietnam War. They aim to inform and facilitate others and have an epic display of patriotism.