Every Memorial Day for the past 30-plus years (except for last year), tens of thousands of motorcycle riders have thundered through Washington DC to honor veterans, those missing in action, and the veteran suicide crisis.

You’d think that’s the sort of thing the United States Department of Defense would support, but apparently not.

In 2019, Artie Muller, a Vietnam veteran and then-executive director of Rolling Thunder, said federal agencies were making it overly difficult to organize.

“We’re just sick and tired of getting the shaft from them,” Muller said.

There were problems getting permission to use the giant parking lots at the Pentagon where bikers gathered for the ride.
In a letter at the time to local chapters of Rolling Thunder, Muller criticized the Defense Department and the U.S. Park Police: “Despite planning meetings, agreements and exorbitant permit charges fees these DC agencies do everything they can to divert and complicate our event.”

Organizers were so frustrated, they announced the 2019 event would be their last. AMVETs, the Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization, announced it would be taking over sponsorship of the event, now renamed Rolling to Remember.

But the resistance from the Pentagon hasn’t let up. AMVETs submitted an application last July to use the Pentagon parking lot on May 30tg this year. They expected to hear back by January, but got crickets instead.

In March, Pentagon Special Events confirmed AMVETS’ permit for the Rolling to Remember motorcycle rally, but later reversed its decision, blaming the denial on COVID.

Early this month, Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla wrote to President Biden asking him to reverse the Pentagon’s decision because “guidance from your own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that the risks of outdoor transmission are very low.”

Now Mast is ratcheting up the pressure. This week, Mast and more than 30 other Republican members of Congress sent a letter to President Joe Biden, asking him to override the Pentagon’s decision.

“I would have hoped that President Biden would have more respect for a Memorial Day tradition, which raises awareness to the 82,000 service members who are still missing in actions and that 22 veterans die by suicide each day,” Mast said in an interview with Fox News. “That is why today, I along with 33 of my House colleagues are urging President Biden to reverse his administration’s decision and grant Rolling to Remember their permit request to use the Pentagon’s parking lot.”

Mast and the Republicans wrote in the letter that “nine state, local and federal agencies have already approved AMVETS’ permit for this year … your Administration is the only remaining barrier to ensuring this Memorial Day tradition goes as planned…Therefore, we urge you to overturn the decision by the Department of Defense and grant a permit to AMVETS for use of the Pentagon parking lot. Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter that is deeply personal to myself and many veterans across this country.”

No matter what, AMVETS’ national executive director, Joe Chenelly, said the event will still happen.

“We will have a demonstration on May 30 in Washington, D.C. We’re not going to be able to stage where this demonstration has staged for decades, but we will have a central staging area in the District,” Chennelly said.

“It will be safe, it will be coordinated, and we have a lot of protocols in place to make sure that the spread of COVID doesn’t happen there. And we are working with every other agency. There are a lot of agencies that are responsible for that region. We’re working with all of those. The Pentagon is the only one that wouldn’t work with us.”

Strange, isn’t it? The Department of Defense is the only agency who won’t work with these veterans?

Why do you think that is?

2 Responses

  1. TJ4Mission22

    I am not a Vet. I am an Ambassador for Mission22. This ride is important to so many of our veterans and their mental health. Our veterans need the support of this ride for one another and the support from the country! These men and women are too important for our current president (using that term loosely) and military leadership to turn away.

    Reply

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