Rolling Thunder bikers roar into town to honor veterans

Thousands of motorcyclists are expected to roll into the nation's capital for Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Thousands of motorcyclists are expected to roll into the nation’s capital for Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart) (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
A rider displays the flag during Rolling Thunder Sunday, May 29 (Darci Marchese/WTOP)
A rider displays the flag during Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Darci Marchese/WTOP) (Darci Marchese/WTOP)
A convoy of motorcycles passes on its way to Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29. (Darci Marchese/WTOP)
A convoy of motorcycles passes on its way to Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Darci Marchese/WTOP) (Darci Marchese/WTOP)
Onlookers along Route 10 in Maryland wave flags at passing motorcycles on their way to Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29. (Darci Marchese/WTOP)
Onlookers along Route 10 in Maryland wave flags at passing motorcycles on their way to Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Darci Marchese/WTOP)     (Darci Marchese/WTOP)
Thousands of bikers are in Washington this weekend for the annual Rolling Thunder Run to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces. (WTOP/Dennis Foley)
Thousands of bikers are in Washington this weekend for the annual Rolling Thunder Run to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces. (WTOP/Dennis Foley) (WTOP/Dennis Foley)
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Thousands of motorcyclists are expected to roll into the nation's capital for Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
A rider displays the flag during Rolling Thunder Sunday, May 29 (Darci Marchese/WTOP)
A convoy of motorcycles passes on its way to Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29. (Darci Marchese/WTOP)
Onlookers along Route 10 in Maryland wave flags at passing motorcycles on their way to Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 29. (Darci Marchese/WTOP)
Thousands of bikers are in Washington this weekend for the annual Rolling Thunder Run to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces. (WTOP/Dennis Foley)

WASHINGTON — Thousands of bikers came to D.C. this Memorial Day weekend for the 29th Rolling Thunder Run to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces.

The Rolling Thunder Run began as a demonstration for service members who were abandoned after the Vietnam War, the organization said on its website. The name “Rolling Thunder” comes from the sound of the thousands of motorcycles crossing the Memorial Bridge.

LeMont Long came from Columbia, South Carolina, to participate in the ride.

“This is an opportunity for us old Vietnam vets to get together and say ‘Welcome home’ because when we came back the first time, nobody welcomed us home,” Long said.

Over the years Rolling Thunder has become a broader recognition of veterans from all eras, as sons and daughters of Vietnam vets, along with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, have joined in the annual pilgrimage.

Michael Collins, another participant, said this year is his first time attending.

“I came to support all of the veterans,” he said. “My father was a veteran, my brother was a veteran, [and] my grandfather [too].”

Motorcycles lined Constitution Avenue on Saturday, and some were also parked on the grass near the Memorial and Roosevelt Bridges. On Sunday morning, they were staging at area Harley Davidson centers and at the Pentagon before a planned ride at noon across the Memorial Bridge and to the Vietnam Memorial.

The thousands taking part in or just watching the event came from across the country and around the world.

“We’ve met people from London. We’ve met people from everywhere, every walk of life in the world and the United States,” Collins said.

“They are all here for this reason, and that’s to support the ones that are not going to ever come back and see this.”

According to Bloomberg Politics, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will be making an appearance with the bikers Sunday afternoon.

“I am doing it in honor of the great bikers who have been totally supportive of my campaign and now I want to be supportive of them,” Trump said in a statement  to Bloomberg. “I look forward to it!”

D.C. area resident Ed Beaghan said the “camaraderie” and “togetherness of all of the guys that were in the war in Vietnam” make Rolling Thunder special. This is his 17th year participating in the event.

“The people lining the streets just give you cold chills,” Beaghan said.

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