Riding for remembrance: Local motorcyclists head to Washington D.C.

  • Members of Rolling Thunder ride down Deerfield Street in Greenfield on their way to Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Members of Rolling Thunder ride down Deerfield Street in Greenfield on their way to Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Bruce Fowler of Athol, Jeff Neipp of Leyden and other members of Rolling Thunder get ready to ride south to Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning in Greenfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Bruce Fowler of Athol, Marie Conlin of Athol, Jeff Neipp of Leyden and other members of Rolling Thunder get ready to ride south to Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning in Greenfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/22/2019 4:46:56 PM

GREENFIELD — Main Street was noisier than usual on Wednesday morning, when a fleet of eight motorcycles carrying nine military veterans took off from Veterans Mall at 8 a.m.

The group consisted of members of the local chapter of Rolling Thunder, a national group of military veterans that coordinates motorcycle rides, including the annual Memorial Day weekend “First Amendment Run” in Washington D.C.

The nine leaving from Greenfield will pick up more motorcyclists along the way, spend a day in Gettysburg, Pa., and end in Washington D.C, where they expect to join 800,000 others from chapters around the country for the ceremonial ride through the city, according to Rolling Thunder Vermont Chapter 1 President Jeff Neipp, who lives in Leyden.

The run was originally conceived in 1988 by veterans as a Memorial Day demonstration for soldiers who are missing in action, prisoners of war or otherwise unaccounted for, according to the official website of the event. The name came partly from “Operation Rolling Thunder,” a 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam, and partly from the sound that organizers expected their 2,500 motorcycles would make arriving in downtown Washington.

Every year since, Rolling Thunder has gathered Memorial Day weekend for a ride from the Pentagon, along the National Mall to West Potomac Park, which sits between the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

This is expected to be the last year for the national organization’s run, Neipp said, with security in the nation’s capital having tightened in recent years and costs for coordinating the run increasing. In the future, the event will likely continue in local rides organized by individual chapters, he said.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ex 261.


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