TRAVERSE CITY -- Members of Rolling Thunder Michigan Chapter 1 invite the public to polish their chrome and join them as they hit the highway for their fourth annual Pure Thunder-escorted veterans memorial ride.
About 500 riders are expected to participate in this year’s event that kicks off June 22 at noon at the Little River Casino, 2700 Orchard Highway in Manistee. The route will follow the Lake Michigan shoreline through Manistee County.
This year’s ride, open to cars and trucks, as well as motorcycles, will honor members of the 126 Cavalry Bravo Troop from Manistee that returned in September from their third tour in Afghanistan, as well as all area Gold Star mothers, and U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho. Bergdahl is believed to be the only prisoner of war still held by the Taliban since his capture in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.
Cost is $25 per person whether rider or passenger. Participants can register up to 20 minutes prior to start.
Pure Thunder is one of three rides scheduled in conjunction with the group’s annual Thunder at the River weekend June 22-23 at Little River Casino that is open to the public.
Rolling Thunder members, tribal, state and local police, motorcycle enthusiasts and car club members will assemble at June 21 at 2 p.m. at the Manistee VFW Post, 1211 28th St., to escort the Michigan Vietnam Memorial Wall from the VFW to Little River Casino, where it will be displayed through the weekend. There is no charge to take part in the escort.
“Rolling Thunder’s mission is to publicize the POW-MIA issue and to educate the public on the fact that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all past wars,” said Calvin Murphy, a board member of Rolling Thunder’s Manistee chapter and a Vietnam War veteran who was attached to the Army’s 1st Cavalry assigned to the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam’s Demilitarized Zone.
The subject of Vietnam War-era prisoners of war still troubles him. Murphy said he served with a soldier believed captured by the Vietnamese in 1967.
“He never was found,” Murphy said. “He was checking the (concertina) wire one afternoon and they grabbed him. It’s been 46 years; he just vanished into thin air. No one ever knew what happened to him.”
Murphy suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and was encouraged to get involved with veterans' organizations. Murphy said Bergdahl is known to be alive and talks for his release are taking place.
“Right now he’s the symbol of all POW’s, and so many Americans don’t even know who he is.”
Proceeds from the events support the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and Patriot Place in Gaylord, scholarships for children of Michigan military personnel killed in the line of duty, and to support the group’s flag detail, that works in conjunction with the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Coalition, to meet the planes carrying fallen war heroes back home.
Information on the weekend events is available at ThunderAtTheRiver.com or at Rolling Thunder Michigan Chapter 1 on Facebook.