WASHINGTON - Some were worried the ride would be cancelled but on Sunday, a sea of motorcycles are roaring through the District for the 2021 Rolling to Remember demonstration.
Thousands of veterans took off at noon from RFK Stadium and circled the National Mall, hoping to bring awareness to prisoners of war and the over 80,000 military members still missing in action.
One of the demonstration’s organizers, American Veterans (AMVETS) National Commander Jan Brown, told FOX 5 it is activism like this that helped just positively identify the remains of a friend’s uncle, who was lost at Pearl Harbor.
"He will be coming home probably in July and they’re going to bury him on what would have been his 100th birthday in his hometown, in West Virginia," said Brown, who became emotional after working with the family in this effort for around a decade.
"To know how that you know, that this is happening, it means a lot to me. Because I know it means so much to them," Brown said.
The Memorial Day weekend motorcycle ride, Rolling Thunder, has been rolling through the District since the 1980s.
AMVETS took over a couple of years ago, renaming the memorial ride, "Rolling to Remember." Brown said many Veterans could not participate last year because of the pandemic.
This year, there were fears the event was almost not going to happen. Defense leaders confirmed a few weeks ago they would not allow a permit to gather at the Pentagon due to the ongoing COIVD19 pandemic.
That left organizers scrambling for assistance. FOX 5 is told DC leaders stepped in to set up the event at RFK Stadium.
"It’s everything," said veeran Chuck Clark of Ohio, "to let them know that we’re not going anywhere, is a big thing for us. So. Not being able to be last year really, really hurt because we need to continue to let everyone know what we’ve done for our country and the rights that we deserve."
Veteran Kevin West told FOX 5, "As being a combat vet. This is minute, the virus, compared to others situations we have been in."
For AMVETS National Rider’s President Tom McNamara, thse dangerous situations included flying medivac while deployed in Iraq.
"Within the span of one year, got back from Iraq, got divorced and then got retired from the military and it all just kind of hit me," said McNamara, speaking to the other focus of this year’s demonstration: Veteran suicide prevention and awareness.
McNamara said the country is losing around 22 Veterans to suicide each day and that Veteran suicide has gotten worse during the pandemic. McNamara said he was almost one of those victims – had it not been for a friend.
"He talked me off the wall. And it was after that, I went and got help. There’s no shame in getting help," McNamara told FOX 5.
Those riding Sunday hope members of Congress will hear their stories. And if not their stories – hear their engines roar. Those riding are calling on lawmakers to ensure veterans have the financially support our military community needs.