Memorial Day weekend motorcycle ride won’t roll in DC

A demonstration that continues the message of Rolling Thunder has been sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For 32 years, thousands of motorcyclists converged in D.C. on Memorial Day weekend for a massive rolling demonstration to honor veterans and raise awareness about prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Rolling Thunder had its final ride last year, and the group American Veterans, or AMVETS, took up the flag Rolling Thunder left behind with Rolling to Remember.

But the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted AMVETS’ plans for the May 22-24 ride.

“Unfortunately, at this point, it’s just not feasible to continue planning to have that massive gathering in our nation’s capital. As important as it is, it’s just legally not possible, and it would not be responsible to do so,” said Joe Chenelly, national executive director of AMVETS.

The veteran service group undertook the organization of the ride last fall after Rolling Thunder organizers announced that last May’s ride would be their last.

AMVETS has been eager to carry on the tradition, renewing attention on POWs and MIAs and shining new light on the high rate of veterans’ suicides.

But with bans of large gatherings and calls for social distancing due to the coronavirus outbreak, instead of a massive gathering of motorcycles and their riders in D.C., AMVETS is hoping participants will spend time on Memorial Day weekend tuned into Rolling to Remember’s online programming.

“What we’re doing is we’re going to ask you to participate from wherever you are,” Chenelly said.

But what about the actual motorcycle ride?

“If you’re able to, what we want you to do is ride 22 miles on that day, May 24,” Chenelly said.

Participants would be asked to register their ride on an app. The data collected by AMVETS will be shared with members of Congress to validate the continuing advocacy of the issues of POWs, MIAs and veterans’ suicides.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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