The Rolling Thunder®, Inc. Story
In the fall of 1987, Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, two Vietnam veterans met to discuss their personal concerns about the POW/MIA's from the Vietnam War. Having honorably served their country and having taken an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies..." and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same," they were deeply troubled by the abhorrent neglect of attention given to those who did not make it out with their lives or their freedom. These veterans discussed the more than 10,000 reported sightings of live Americans living in dismal captivity. Intelligence reports of these sightings were generally ignored by the government and mainstream press.
The First Rolling Thunder®, Inc. Demonstration
The Founders of Rolling Thunder®, Inc., Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, 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. 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 motorcycles, a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder. Hence, they would call themselves "Rolling Thunder®, Inc." 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 the Founders of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. made their stand that day in front of the Capitol, they reflected thankfully for the people who came in support of the POW/ MIA's and for the unity that was felt. This was the first Rolling Thunder®, Inc. 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"). The number of participants/spectators in the Memorial Day weekend Ride for Freedom has grown from 2,500 to an estimated 900,000.
VETERAN & COMMUNITY SERVICE
In 2007, Rolling Thunder® Charities, Inc. was established as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt, non-profit organization which enables individuals and corporations to receive a tax deduction for funds donated to Rolling Thunder® Charities, Inc. These funds are used for veterans, active duty military and their families in need of help. No officers of Rolling Thunder® Charities, Inc. receive compensation; we all donate our time. Rolling Thunder® Charities, Inc. spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in financial aid, food, clothing and other essentials to veterans, homeless veterans and veterans' families in need, women's crisis centers and toys for children. In 2005, Rolling Thunder®, Inc. united with the National Alliance of POW/MIA Families to petition the U.S. Government to use the designation “Prisoner of War/Missing in Action” (POW/MIA) – a designation recognized by the Geneva Conventions - not “Missing/Captured”. This will ensure that prisoners’ rights and protections remain consistent under the Geneva Conventions. · Expenditures exceed over half a million dollars a year, nationwide, to educate the public and increase awareness about the POW/MIA issue and other injustices suffered by veterans. The organization regularly donates POW/MIA flags to local area schools, youth groups, non-profit organizations, special interest groups and organizes flag raising ceremonies. Veterans speak to youth groups about the honor of serving their country and educating them about the POW/MIA issue. · Rolling Thunder®, Inc. sponsors search missions into Southeast Asia for POW/MIAs and the remains of those killed in action. · Thousands of hours are logged in by Rolling Thunder®, Inc. members at local VA hospitals nationwide. Members visit and provide moral support to nursing home veterans and patients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). · Rolling Thunder®, Inc. helped facilitate the publishing of a POW/MIA U.S. postage stamp through the U.S. Postal Service that displayed dog tags with the declaration - "POW & MIA - NEVER FORGOTTEN" Rolling Thunder®, Inc. participated in the dedication of the World War II Memorial in 2004 and assisted with organizing the World War II parade that took place on that historic date.