For many, last week’s “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle ride on Washington D.C. was a time to shine the spotlight on the unresolved issues of MIAs and POWs. For others, it was an opportunity to remember those who paid the ultimate price in the Vietnam War.
And for all, it was chance to get introduced to Veterans Advantage, a membership organization founded to recognize, respect and reward all who serve.
“This is the 15th anniversary of ‘Rolling Thunder’ and we were honored to be part of this historic occasion,” said Scott Higgins, founder and chief executive of Veterans Advantage. “Rolling Thunder reminds us that this war will not be over until there is a full accounting of our missing in action.”
As part of its participation, Veterans Advantage is donating a portion of its membership fees generated during the weekend to Rolling Thunder. Members were pleased to see Veterans Advantage playing a role in this important event.
“As an advocate and lobbyist for Veterans and military issues here in Washington, I have the opportunity to see and hear a lot throughout of what is going on around the country while visiting with old friends during Rolling Thunder weekend.
The military community is a very tight knit group of people and this weekend I witnessed something very special... your promotion of Veterans Advantage!” said Elizabeth Kilbride, president of the National Defense Resource Forum.
“It is so heartwarming to see someone create something this special to give back to those who put on a uniform. Recruiting companies to give back to our Veterans and military is very special. It’s about time,” she added.
And while many of the attendees were still grappling with memories of the conflict in Southeast Asia, the present war against terrorism competed with the past in many minds. Milo Gordon, 58, of Colby, Wis., a mental health counselor with Vietnam veterans on his eighth ride to the wall, led almost 400 riders from California to Washington.
"A lot more people, a lot more support, a lot more people on the side of the road [this year]" Gordon said. "I think 9-11 had something to do with it. It reminded a lot of people of the cost of freedom."
Richard "Bear" Ohms, 53, a millwright from Freemont, Ohio came to Washington for Memorial Day for the seventh time, with only one other rider, Larry Cutshall.
"Something pulls me back," Ohms said. "It’s my way of showing respect for my comrades, who didn’t make it back. Every guy whose name is on the wall would love to be here."
Amelia Matthews, 56, of Gaithersburg, Md., was one of the few women Vietnam veterans to ride Sunday. She served with Naval Intelligence in 1966. "It’s my first ride," Matthews said. "It’s wonderful. All of us need to show our solidarity right now."
Cindy Rheinkeimer, 37, of Milford, Ohio lost her father Richard Sanders in Vietnam in 1967 when she was three years old. Rheinkeimer is part of group children who lost their dads in the war called "Sons and Daughters in Touch."
"A hundred to 150 of us are going to Vietnam as a group," she said. "Our theme is, in honor, peace and understanding. I don’t remember my dad, so my involvement is a way to have contact with my dad."
Many of those riding at the event took time to stop by the Veterans Advantage booth at the Harley-Davidson sponsored Barbecue, and signed up for the program. Attendees also participated in a drawing for four roundtrip tickets on Amtrak’s Acela service, a $1200 value.