The First Rolling Thunder® Demonstration:
Artie and Ray were ordinary men who understood that they had a right to have their voices heard and proceeded to lay down the plans for a gathering in Washington, D.C. during the 1988 Memorial Day weekend. John Holland, Walt Sides, and Ted Sampley worked on getting the permits for the demonstration. They reached out to their families, fellow veterans, and veteran’s advocates to unify and form a march and demonstration in the Nation’s Capital. Their arrival would be announced by the roar of their Harley Davidsons, a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder. Hence, they would call themselves “Rolling Thunder” a title that would endure time and be trademarked in 1990.
Word spread quickly and by Memorial Day weekend in 1988, approximately 2,500 motorcycles from all over the country converged on Washington, D.C. to demand from our leaders a full accounting of all POW/MIA’s. As they made their stand that day in front of the Capital, Artie and Ray reflected thankfully for the people who came in support of the POW’s and MIA’s, and for the unity that was felt. This was Rolling Thunder’s first demonstration. Only until ALL POW/MIA’s ARE ACCOUNTED FOR, it will not be their last. On that day, the foundation was laid for the annual “Ride for Freedom” to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall (also referred to as the “Ride to the Wall”). In 2007 Rolling Thunder®, Inc. held its 20th Demonstration ride which had well over 750,000 motorcycles in WDC to participate and remind our Leaders and Country