An 80 percent replica of the original Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall arrives in Elma, WA tomorrow along with a motorcycle escort organized by the Washington state chapter of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. a non-profit group consisting of both veterans and non-veterans who like to ride motorcycles.
The Wall is operated by American Veterans Traveling Tribute (AVTT) and rolls in by truck and calls the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds home for the 4th of July holiday. AVTT's mission is to "create a forum for communities to come together to Honor, Respect and Remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country and to educate all to the Cost of Freedom."
Tributes occur each day but on Saturday, Rolling Thunder plans a "Ride to the Wall" rally that finishes with an emotional "Ride of Honor" ceremony.
"Once at the wall, the bikes pull up to the wall at one end and at walking speed each biker rides the length of the wall one at a time," said Rob Horton, secretary for Rolling Thunder's Washington chapter. "It's a pretty powerful thing that's hard to explain. You must go and experience what attending these events are like."
Both rides are free to attend and Rolling Thunder anticipates several motorcycle clubs and numerous individual riders to attend the escort and the "Ride to the Wall" events. Rolling Thunder raised nearly $10,000 to bring the wall to Elma. Members of the public who don't ride are welcome to attend the ceremonies. Wall viewing is open 24 hours.
"We left people behind and they were never accounted for, this can't happen," said Bill Parish, a Vietnam veteran and president of Rolling Thunder's Washington chapter. That's why we do this. That's what it's all about."
Staging for the "Escort Ride" begins at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Semi-Truck Wash, 19530 Ivan Street SW in Rochester, WA. The Traveling Wall is expected to arrive by 3 p.m. The escort is about 30 miles into Elma.
Staging for "Ride to the Wall" begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at McClearly VFW and Beerbower Park in McClearly, WA. The ride is about 15 miles to Elma. The "Honor Ride" starts as soon as the first bike rolls up to the wall.
Rolling Thunder is also hosting the "Field of Honor" a co-event on the opposite side of town showcasing 401 U.S. Flags posted in a field at the end of Schouweiler Tracts Road East. This event starts on July 3rd and is open though July 7th. Members of the public can purchase a flag for $30 each and pick them up on the 8th or request mail delivery.
"Everyone should experience these events at least once in their lives," Horton said. "I'm sure it affects everyone a little different but there is no denying that once you have attended one of these events you will take with you memories you will never forget."
Other Rides Scheduled This Weekend
Newport Motorcycle Rally July 4-7: Newport, Kentucky hosts a four-day motorcycle rally that includes a charity ride and bike show.
Colorado VTX Ride July 4-7: Join the Colorado VTX Range Riders on their 11th annual ride through the Rockies. Short and long rides planned to accommodate riders of all levels.
Blackbeard's Motorcycle Ride July 4: This 3rd annual ride benefits the SSG Matthew A. Pucino Memorial Foundation. Registration is at 9 a.m. and kickstands up at 11 a.m. at Buzzards Bay Park, 90 Main St. in Buzzards Bay, MA.
The Hollister Rally July 5-6: Hollister, California is considered the birthplace of the American biker and is the host of this major festival that includes 30 bands, a custom bike show and the 66th Independence run.
Ride for the Stars July 6: The 8th annual poker run benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Colorado. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and kickstands up at 10 a.m. starting at American legion Post 1992, 16070 E. Dartmouth in Aurora, CO.
Bone to be Wild July 6: The 10th annual Bone to be Wild ride benefits the Humane Society of Washington County. Register online or in person starting at 9:30 a.m. Ride begins at 11 a.m. at the Humane Society, 13011 Maugansville Road in Hagerstown, MD.
Easton Memorial Run July 6: This poker run is in memory of Easton Loewenstein who was born with Hirschsprung's disease in 2006 and died in 2008. Proceeds benefit the Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, NE. Registration is at 11 a.m. at Dillon Brothers Harley-Davidson, 3838 N. HWS Cleveland Blvd. in Omaha.
Ride for Freedom July 7: Freedom Riders MC host the AMA sanctioned Ride for Freedom Poker Run. Sign in from 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday at the FRMC Clubhouse, 331 E. 6th St. in Red Hill, PA.