…The following story was written by Joe Bookataub of the OFR/NC Coast Chapter. The story is about his 1st Rolling Thunder experience. Thanks Joe.
Rolling Thunder 2012
Even though I rode to the Wall with 400,000 of my “new, best friends”, my experience at the Vietnam Wall was a solitary and reverent one. I could not help but remember classmates and friends who served in that unpopular war. Some gave their all; they did not make it back. Those are the individuals that we are remembering today. Additionally, we are remembering the many MIA/POWs.
There are 58,272 names on that black Wall. Today we paused to sincerely thank them for their service to keep freedom free for us.
It was Thursday 6:00am when (5) Old F*rt Riders headed out from Shallotte to make the 430 mile trek to the DC suburbs. Ron Magadieu, David Clemmens, John Clandening, and Regina and Joe Bookataub. (Yes, she rode her own bike and earned the title of F*rt-ette!) The motel was blocked off for our group, which mushroomed with the addition of (25) Old F*rts from Boston and (15) Old F*rts from Greensboro, NC. It was “old home week” for Ron but it was the chance to meet some real nice people and make some good friends for the other four of us BHHogs.
On Friday we took a motorcycle tour of Washington DC, ending at Arlington National Cemetery. Viewing the Changing of the Guard ceremony at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a life altering experience. Our military dead are treated with respect and reverence. Seeing 380,000 gravestones is truly an emotional experience. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Even though we arrived at the Pentagon parking lot at 6:30 am on Memorial Day Sunday, there were already tens of thousands of bikes ahead of us. At noon the first of 400,000 motorcycles left the parking lot headed for the Wall. We left at 1:15pm. The last left at 4:00!
The streets surrounding the National Mall of our capital were barricaded. Clear sailing! Surrounded by hundreds of thousands of cheering spectators, we paraded down Constitution Avenue and back up Independence. The vocal support was awesome! My most vivid memory was of a woman, hunched over in a contrite posture, saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you…..( for remembering).”
I CANNOT explain my Ride to The Wall. It is a very personal experience that only you can absorb it’s meaning by being there.