Memorial Day 2012: 25 years later, Rolling Thunder still honoring our brave missing...
A highway filled with large motorcycles roaring by in a long procession, their riders decked out in black leather and jeans, is an intimidating — some would say frightening — sight. It's also quintessentially American. Twenty-five years ago the founders of Rolling Thunder decided to use their motorcycles and biker garb to get the attention of Congress on Memorial Day. Their mission: to force the U.S government to account for all POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War.
The group's first "Ride for Freedom" to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial attracted 2,500 riders. Today, Rolling Thunder — the name taken from both the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam and the sound of a column of Harley Davidsons — is a non-profit organization with more than 100 chapters throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. The group is actively involved in promoting legislation to increase veterans' benefits and also, true to its charter, to resolve the POW/MIA issue from all wars.
The numbers of POW/MIAs from wars since Vietnam have declined — just six military personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan remain missing. But the numbers of those still missing from wars going back to World War II — 83,436 — is a haunting reminder of the layers of sacrifice our troops accept and the pain their families endure.
According to the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, most of the missing are from World War II: 73,681. From Korea, 7,957 remain unaccounted for; and from Vietnam, 1,666. Even the Cold War has its MIAs: 126. The POW/Missing Personnel Office was created in 1993 — five years after Rolling Thunder's first ride to Washington — to coordinate and manage all POW/MIA issues.
Rolling Thunder's mission today has also evolved into a "display of patriotism and respect for all who defend our country." On this Memorial Day, we honor the grass-roots veterans who created Rolling Thunder 25 years ago so that we never forget our missing warriors.
We also honor on this day all our war dead, especially the ones whose family and friends are still grieving.
Consider the names below of our area troops who fell in the war on terror. Think of their sacrifice, of what they might have accomplished and of the huge gaps they leave among family and friends.
And never forget them.
Army Sgt. Elmer C. Krause, 40, Greensboro/ Iraq, April 9, 2004.
Marine Lance Cpl. David B. Houck, 25, Winston-Salem/ Iraq, Nov. 26, 2004.
Army Sgt. Monta S. Ruth, 26, Winston-Salem/ Iraq, Aug. 31, 2005.
Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Russoli, 21, Greensboro/ Iraq, Oct. 20, 2005.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher W. Thompson, 25, Millers Creek/ Iraq, Oct. 21, 2005.
Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel F. Swaim, 19, Yadkinville/ Iraq, Nov. 10, 2005.
Marine Cpl. Felipe C. Barbosa, 21, High Point/ Iraq, Jan. 28, 2006.
Army Sgt. Anton J. Hiett, 25, Mount Airy/ Afghanistan, March 12, 2006.
Army Spc. David N. Timmons Jr., 23, Lewisville/ Afghanistan, May 5, 2006.
Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin A. Lucas, 20, Greensboro/ Iraq, May 26, 2006.
Army Cpl. Bobby T. Callahan, 22, Jamestown/ Iraq, Sept. 19, 2006.
Army Staff Sgt. Patrick O. Barlow, 42, Greensboro/ Iraq, Oct. 18, 2006.
Army Spc. Nicholas R. Gibbs, 25, Stokesdale/ Iraq, Dec. 6, 2006.
Navy Seaman Sandra S. Grant, 23, Linwood/ Arabian Sea, Dec. 31, 2006.
Army Spc. Ebe F. Emolo, 33, Greensboro/ Iraq, April 7, 2007.
Army Maj. Larry J. Bauguess Jr., 36, Moravian Falls/ Pakistan, May 14, 2007.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Paul J. Flynn, 28, Whitsett/ Iraq, Aug. 22, 2007.
Army Pfc. Adam L. Marion, 26, Dobson/ Iraq, April 28, 2008.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua T. Harris, 36, Lexington/ Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2008.
Army National Guard 1st Lt. Leevi K. Barnard, 28, Mount Airy/ Iraq, May 21, 2009.
Army Capt. Mark Garner, 30, Elkin/ Afghanistan, July 6, 2009.
Army Staff Sgt. Adam L. Dickmyer, 26, Winston-Salem/Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2010.
Army Spc. Jacob C. Carroll, 20, Archdale/Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2010.