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‘Rolling Thunder’ motorcycle rally going virtual amid coronavirus pandemic

The annual ride by Rolling Thunder as it crosses the Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C., May 24, 2009. (Pulicciano/Flickr)
May 19, 2020

The popular annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, now called Rolling to Remember, is making its cause remotely.

While the coronavirus pandemic has limited social gatherings, the rally’s organizers are asking its participants to ride their motorcycles 22 miles in their own communities for the Memorial Day Weekend rally this Sunday, American Veterans (AMVETS) announced. Rolling to Remember usually draws many bikers to its cause, which is to raise support for veterans returning home.

The ride begins at noon EST this Sunday, May 24. Riders are being asked to download an app called REVER to plan, track, and share their rides, WUSA9 reports.

“The decision to change the way we’ll roll to remember was a painful but necessary one. Safety was our top concern, as has been the case with all major events that were canceled due to COVID-19,” Sherman Gillums Jr., Chief Advocacy Officer of AMVETS, told American Military News.

“As veterans tend to do, we will adapt and overcome by bringing people together however we can, regardless of the pandemic. Our virtual event will include testimonials from veterans, families, and survivors, special messages from a few surprise guests, and content that will inspire those who ‘attend’ as we honor the fallen during Memorial Day weekend. It’s like celebrating Thanksgiving in Kabul or Christmas in Baghdad — it’s the spirit, not the circumstances, that will give it meaning.”

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The Memorial Day Weekend rally has been planned since September, even though the 32-year old tradition ended for the original organizers. AMVETS now organizes the rally, and decided to change the name from Rolling Thunder to Rolling to Remember.

“Rolling To Remember will continue the tradition of honoring those who remain missing in action and were taken prisoner of war dating back decades,” Gillums Jr. added. “We will take this a step further, however, by giving a voice to another group of veterans who are being held prisoner as we speak — those who suffer in crisis as a consequence of military service.”

There are 81,000 Americans who are still missing from several wars dating back as far as World War II and on average 22veterans commit suicide every day.

“We will also ensure those who are missing in action due to veteran suicide aren’t forgotten,” Gillums Jr. said. “We owe all these men and women more than we can repay in many cases, but we’d better try harder. That starts by ensuring our elected representatives hears directly from the people on these issues, which is the animating purpose behind Rolling To Remember.”

Air Force Veteran and AMVETS National Commander Jan Brown said AMVETS is looking forward to holding the rally in person next year and that they already have the permits. The ride traditionally begins at the Pentagon and ends at the National Mall.

To help address the issues AMVETS is bringing to the public’s attention, they are asking people who support its cause to sign a petition that demands Congress take action.