Thirty Something Rolling Thunder

May 29, 2018

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Thirty Something Rolling Thunder

It is getting hard to see the point of Rolling Thunder, through the fog of self-congratulatory patriotism.

It has always seemed like a Vietnam thing to me. It might very well outlive Artie Muller, the Fourth Infantry Division veteran who has made Rolling Thunder his life’s work but it is hard to anticipate what it might eventually mean after he is gone.

Maybe Trump will ride in it on a trike like Putin with the Night Wolves. Maybe he’ll ride in a golf cart.

Three veterans named Ray Manzo, John Holland and Walt Sides made the motorcycle pilgrimage to The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in 1987. Muller joined them in 1988 and so did about 2,000 other guys who were mostly fed-up veterans. The event wasn’t about showing off your patriotism. Most of the participants had already done that. It was about anger and betrayal and physically defending the only monument to the men who died in the first war America ever lost.

A Little History

This was long ago in a different America. Vietnam had been abandoned and the decade-long war had been lost 13 years and a month before. Not all young men had been compelled to participate in it. Only the least. General Lewis Blaine Hershey, the Director of the Selective Service called the strategy to preserve the nation’s best and brightest “channeling.”

The young men who fought in the war were not greeted with open arms when they returned. At best, they were widely considered to be victims and dupes. All this was much fresher in people’s minds 30 years ago than today. Nobody thought it was appropriate to give Vietnam Vets a parade so 30 years ago they gave themselves one. But that was hardly all there was to it.

The Wall had been vandalized that spring. Three of the names had been defaced. It was some kind of a protest. For some guys, vandalizing The Wall was one protest too many.


And then there was the issue of the missing. The North Vietnamese had been particularly brutal to American prisoners and were unforthcoming about how many prisoners they had held. That became an issue about the time Nixon started to squirm out of the war.

In 1971, a World War II veteran and adman named Newton Foust Heisley designed a flag for a grassroots group called the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. Most people would recognize that flag even today.

It looks like a motorcycle club patch. The top rocker says “POW-MIA.” The center illustrates a young man with his head bowed, a guard tower and a strand of barbed wire. Beneath that are the words, “You Are Not Forgotten.” Heisley’s 24-year-old son, home on leave from the Marine Corps, was the model for the prisoner.

A tide turned in 1988. Heisley’s flag first flew over the White House in 1988.

A couple of riders to The Wall in 1988 brought copies of Heisley’s flag with them. They ran around the lawn waving them for about three minutes until they were arrested for demonstrating without a permit.

A reporter asked a biker from Pittsburgh named Robert Wagner why he had ridden all that way just to park his motorcycle near The Wall and he replied, “A show of strength.”

The official mission statement of the big ride in Washington every year still reads, “The major function of Rolling Thunder is to publicize the POW-MIA issue: To educate the public that many American Prisoners of War were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future Veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners of War-Missing In Action. We are also committed to helping American Veterans from all wars.”

Not Captured

But the words have rung hollow for at least a couple of years. The current President, the guy who is certain he would run into a school unarmed to confront a crazed shooter, prefers war heroes who weren’t captured.

The pull Muller and Rolling Thunder once had on the nation’s conscience is waning. George W. Bush greeted Muller in the White House driveway the way Trump greeted Harley executives. Even Barack Obama, who clearly didn’t get or like Rolling Thunder, once stuck his head in a meeting Muller had at the White House.

Presidential Weekend

Trump did not make time to talk to Muller or any of the Rolling Thunder Riders although he did tweet about the event once. It wasn’t because he was too busy. His entire long weekend went like this.

Friday the President spoke at the Naval Academy Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony from 9:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. and completed his day with a 2:30 p.m. meeting with the Secretary of State in the Oval Office.

Saturday, Trump played golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, VA (from 11:19 a.m. until 3:16 p.m.) then participated in no other public events until at 8:30 when he greeted and honored Joshua Jolt, a 26-year-old man who had been held in Venezuela for two years. Holt had gone to Venezuela in 2016 to marry a woman he met online.

The President said, “This is a great honor tonight. It is very special. We have, as you know, Josh Holt and his wife Thamy. And they came back from a very tough ordeal in a Venezuelan prison. Almost two years, Josh. And, you know, amazing that you were able to take it. Your daughter Marian is here, and your parents, Jason and Laurie. And you went through a lot. And you were in there fighting all the way.”

Sunday morning the President tweeted: “Fantastic to have 400,000 GREAT MEN & WOMEN of Rolling Thunder in D.C. showing their patriotism. They love our Country, they love our Flag, they stand for our National Anthem! Thanks to Executive Director Artie Muller.”

Sunday the President had no public events scheduled. He played golf at the Trump National Golf Club from 11:02 a.m. until 3:12 p.m.

He tweeted about the Nation’s war dead on Monday. “Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today,” he wrote. “Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!”

Monday, Trump participated in the Memorial Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery from 11:40 a.m. until 12:35 p.m. Then he took the rest of the day off.

Patriotic Spectacle

Rolling Thunder remains America’s greatest patriotic spectacle. There were probably 400,000 bikes in the procession this year. Another 650,000 spectators watched them ride past. Together the numbers amount to about three times as many people as attended the President’s inauguration.

But it gets harder every year to see the point.

WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington called the ride “the 31st annual Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom.”

The television station quoted a woman named Cinda Coyne who said “To me, this is what America is about.”

The Army Times thinks the event was the “Rolling Thunder XXXI First Amendment Demonstration Run..”

The Fairfax County, Virginia website describes Rolling Thunder like this:

“Each May, over 400,000+ Rolling Thunder riders descend on the National Capital Region and gather at the Pentagon. From here they ride into DC in a patriotic display in order to honor our veterans, and also to remember those lost or missing soldiers from our nation’s conflicts. These heroes from across North America that ride into town for this annual event represent all types of their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen, firefighters, rescue personnel and law enforcement officers and make the event especially memorable for riders and spectators. This is something uniquely American…this is Rolling Thunder.”

I preferred “Show of force.”

I would be there if the last angry Vietnam Vets, and their sons and nephews and probably their grandsons at this point, showed up in Washington every Memorial Day, circled the White House a few times while discharging their handguns into the air and then split in a thousand different directions.

I want Rolling Thunder to be the motorcycle ride through Washington that bluntly and loudly demonstrates who still runs this game, who still deals the cards, who actually defends this country and where political power comes from.

It has never actually been that but it came close once. It would be nice if one of these years it came close again.


71 Responses to “Thirty Something Rolling Thunder”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Seems to me someone is trying to use veterans again. It is impossible not to note the anti trump bias in this post using some off the wall excuse about rolling thunder.many people over the years have tried to use Vietnam vets for their agenda and we are aware when we see it coming. No we are not all brothers in arms I have seen Vietnam vets sell out their brothers over politics so spare me the bull. What the hell is wrong with a bunch of people riding to DC, and if they are not all on the same page so friggin what! If nothing else it serves as a reminder that we are still here, and still vote and still care. And we don’t have to prove anything to you or anyone else.

  2. Paladin Says:

    @ panamaa;

    Gandalf is actually Gregory Lee West, trying to emulate Milton William Cooper.

    Long May You Ride,


  3. Aanon Says:

    It’s almost like Gandalf waits until he gets his good ideas refilled and then peels out but just keeps spinning. More often than not though, in my opinion, that chess piece is more of a high horse. I do understand the triple up about electronic info though. Noted. Mid 80s in the middle of California, hell of an afternoon to stretch her legs.

  4. panamaa Says:

    He’s the Milton William Cooper of “The Aging Rebel”… That’s who he is….


  5. panamaa Says:

    Paladin, you’ve always been square-up here… The trouble was on his end… No worries by me…

    “Long my you ride”

  6. Sieg Says:

    Budweiser & Vinnie 1-inch had a baby…

  7. Paladin Says:

    @ popeye and others;

    Please except my apologies for taking leave of my common sense and for not using Rebel’s bandwidth in a more productive manner.


  8. popeye Says:

    Why dont you two exchange phone numbers so we dont need to read this shit. You remind me of 2 guys putting each other in a headlock and both saying “you give?” “No you give”over and over. Measure your dicks on your own time

  9. panamaa Says:

    I though you said you were gone… That you would post no more and here we go again with this shit… Just fucking give it UP… Fuck, I hate coming here anymore because I know all I be reading is your shit.. Everything you write is so fucking long winded and twisting I don’t know how anyone gets through it anyway… And your right, no one knows you. After all this shit I doubt anyone would WANT to know you… Just go away….

  10. Gandalf Says:

    More “I know” Gandalf crap. Psychobabble this time. Last week I was a “crackhead” and yesterday I was a “Tweeker.” That’s the whole point Einstein. LE will take ANY opportunity to paint Rebels page and Clubs as whacked. It’s a PR game that has been played out for years… Obviously I was reaching into pure fiction. But you take the opportunity to pretend you know me again.
    At the end of the day, I comment on your words and you counter with what I had for dinner last Friday. BREAKING NEWS! YOU DON’T KNOW ME… and I don’t know you. But I comment on your words… not who I think you are or are not.

  11. Paladin Says:


    On top of everything else, it seems that you suffer from delusions of grandeur. You actually think that anyone in their mind would ever associate you with any kind of honorable MC? You’d be funny if you weren’t so down right pathetic.


  12. Gandalf Says:

    Heck Paladin… I’d just assume you come to Texas and shoot me dead on my doorstep. If I went to Cali and did the same LE would call me a Bandit (supporter) who killed a Cop over an internet blog argument. Rebel and the Bandits would be to blame for my actions and you would get a bagpipe burial for your service. Your picture on the Sheriff’s office wall of fame for your grandkids to honor. A year later some poor Bandit would be in a RICO case and LE would prove I once waved at him… Naaaa, You come to me… I’m sure that Cali PBA card will work nicely in Texas… Heck, Texas cops won’t even charge you and if they do Texas Death Row ain’t all that bad, Chances are the Governor will pardon you and you will only do life…. for your “Service to the community.”

    BTW: What “retired deputy sheriff” DON’T have a PBA card in his wallet? I call BS! Maybe your old badge??? Something that makes YOUR experience and these guys experience, with LE… a lot different. Cops don’t fuck with guys like you (ever) and guys like you can never be framed (or charged) with a crime… So why do you pretend to advise these guys??? A comment or Opinion… OK. But your advice? Come on now… You have no “experience” in these things.

  13. Gandalf Says:

    Yea “Deputy”… That’s what I will do. Hop a plane and rent a car just to stomp some retired deputy sheriff on his doorstep over a Internet Blog… LOL
    When you insulted that Girl (Paula Carroll Swan?) cold blooded and refused to admit you did or was even wrong…. Whatever. Heck I say stupid and wrong things all the time. You? Never.
    But the kicker… and best time you showed who you are is with ZED… 1%er, Nomad, Rebels MC in Australia. Neuro had to clue me in that these guys are of a particular “Badassness” in Australia. After a little research I realized if ZED was who he said he was… this guy might skin you alive and feed you to the Kangas. And you mocked him with ZERO regard. ZERO respect…. Why? Same reason why you mock me… Because YOU KNOW (rightfully) that you will never have “show up”… I’m guessing you never “showed up” in your life. Just talk smack at those who might have… Screw you. The “real” don’t comment… It’s part of what makes them real. ZED sure as hell won’t again… Why should He waste his time? Rebels stuff is Fantastic… but the rat packing and smack talking at people you don’t have a clue about… gets old.

  14. Paladin Says:

    Gandalf Says:
    June 3, 2018 at 9:43 am

    “So… that being said, Mr. Poobah… Your going to have to recalculate your Cyber assault keeping in mind that I can get this angry stone cold sober.”

    I’ll take your suggestion to heart and recalculate my “cyber assault” which BTW you initiated, and retract my previous statement where I stated: “If I knocked on your front door, someone stupid would answer.” There’s no need for anyone to knock on your front door. You give yourself away by continually posting your childish, incoherent rants on Rebel’s page.

    Regarding how angry you get when you’re stone cold sober: Who cares? Rebel has my address. He has my permission to forward it to you, just in case you feel like showing me first hand what a tough guy you really are when in the midst of one of your frequent temper tantrums.

    You keep quacking about some PBA card you allege that I have. As usual, you’re a day late and a dollar short. I’ve never made it a secret that I’m a retired deputy sheriff. However; it’s not at all surprising that you’re the only one posting on Rebel’s page that doesn’t know this.

    In closing, I will ask a favor; Either show up or shut up. I don’t care which. Make it easy on yourself.


  15. Gandalf Says:

    I’m not sure where Palidin got this “Tweeker” thing about me but I haven’t done a line of meth in 10+ years… and even when I did it wasn’t much. I got a job, house and wife of 20+ years and while I know plenty of Tweekers none of them could do that. But Hey, Like I said… “Palidin is SO smart” he must know something I don’t.
    So… that being said, Mr. Poobah… Your going to have to recalculate your Cyber assault keeping in mind that I can get this angry stone cold sober. I don’t really drink much either. Just Special Occasions.
    The fact is Palidin’s “Legal Advice” sounds like most of the Public Defenders I have had and before I fired them. (just weeks before trial) “The Law says your guilty…. take the deal. You can’t win” OH YEA< "You shouldn't have talked on the phone." (LOL) That PBA card in his wallet is closer to his heart than he wants his readers believe.

  16. Penguin Says:

    Popeye’s right, I think…but threatening war can have a purpose other than war… Much in Strategy is indirect. Honestly I think T Man is an idiot, but idiots sometimes do the right thing…all of us old guys have done stupid stuff that worked out…we ain’t dead, eh?

    Anyway here’s an essay about the Trump Strategy, alas, in French, but the Google Translator works bitchen…

    Article runs like this:

    “Building on Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy, Jean-Claude Paye returns to the articulation of the White House’s economic and military policies. He analyzes the opposition between two economic paradigms, one promoting the globalization of capital (supported by the Democratic Party) and the other US industrialization (supported by Trump and part of the Republicans). If the former led to the elimination of all obstacles by war, the latter used the threat of war to re-balance trade from a national point of view.”

    Balance Trade means bucks for rich and jobs for people…maybe…

    Guerre économique ou « guerre absolue

  17. The Kraut Says:

    Thanks Paladin, the noise from the useful idiots of the left gets old fast.

    Gandolf: if you’re gonna be a turd…go lay in the yard.

    Respect to those who warrant respect

    The Kraut

  18. Shovelhead Says:


    Give ’em hell man!

  19. Paladin Says:


    Like you, talk is cheap. Tweak much, do ya?


  20. Gandalf Says:

    @ Paladin…. LOL.You think your so fucking Smart… You even think you have known me for years. You can leave your Keyboard threats in Cali dipshit. Your too fucking soft to be messing with anyone in Texas… Let alone one from Philly. I’m your worse fucking nightmare. “Walk on home… BOY” Find yourself a Palm tree and relax before you make a BIG mistake. FOESAD!

  21. popeye Says:

    A president who cared about the countries solders wouldnt threaten war so easily. What he does care about are the elite , rich and celebrities As evidenced by who he chooses to pardon and give tax break to.. With guys doing life for a bag of weed he pardons some elites. Trump feels that the rich shouldnt suffer the same consequences or be held to the same standards as the poor when they step outside the law.

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