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AMVETS planning 3-day Memorial Day motorcycle rally to replace Rolling Thunder

Riders ready their bikes for the annual Memorial Day Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Scott Ash)
September 24, 2019

American Veterans (AMVETS) is scheduling a three-day motorcycle demonstration in Washington next Memorial Day to raise awareness about U.S. troops still missing in action.

The new event, called “Rolling to Remember,” is set to replace the annual Rolling Thunder celebration, which has historically drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators, Military Times reports.

“(The goal) is to remember those who have yet to come home, to remember those who are in harm’s way, and to remember those who came home but are still struggling, to remember we as a country are still a long way to fulfilling our promises to those who served,” said Jan Brown, AMVETS National Commander during a press conference last week.

Brown added that the event, happening from May 22 to 24, will also emphasize the national veterans suicide crisis. On average, 20 veterans commit suicide a day.

“It’s not a parade. It’s not a party,” he said. “It’s not a free-for-all to block the roads and cruise Constitution Avenue without traffic … It is a demonstration, something of a protest, of our failings (as a country) over the years. We must own those failings.”

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The annual Rolling Thunder Memorial Day ride has drawn large crowds for the past 32 years in the streets of Washington, but the event’s organizers said they’re ending future events because of costs.

AMVETS National Executive Director Joseph Chenelly said they won’t be using the Rolling Thunder name. However, they will be working with the previous organizers to coordinate logistics, hoping for a demonstration similar in scale.

AMVETS, a 75-year old organization, is a politically active organization that has previously openly advocated for bills which aim to help veterans.

In November last year, AMVETS advocated passage of H.R. 7105, the “Brian Tally VA Medical Care and Liability Improvement Act,” also known as “The Tally Bill.”

The goal of the bill is to fix a medical malpractice loophole in the VA. The catalyst for the bill comes from former Marine Brian Tally, who suffered permanent injuries as a result of a misdiagnosis at a VA independent contractor.

The VA contractor loopholes gave them immunity from medical malpractice claims.

“We believe passage of this law will address the longstanding problem of breached due process for veterans who suffer disability, as well as survivors who lose loved ones, due to medical malpractice or negligence on the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs independent contractors,” said Chenelly at the time.

The bill still hasn’t passed the Subcommittee on Health.