Veterans’ Traditional Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally Back On Track

Veterans' Traditional Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally Back On Track Veterans' Traditional Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally Back On Track Members of the patriotic motorcycle club Rolling Thunder participate in the annual Memorial Day Parade on May 25, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Fran Beyer | Thursday, 13 May 2021 03:52 PM

Organizers for a popular motorcycle ride through the nation's capital are kicking off at RFK Stadium Memorial Day weekend after the Defense Department nixed a request to launch the event from the Pentagon, Military.com reported.

The Defense Department's rejection left AMVETS’ plan for the ride in jeopardy, giving organizers just weeks to restructure an event that normally takes a year to plan, the news outlet reported.

"It has been incredibly difficult — well beyond anything any of us, I think, could've comprehended," Joe Chenelly, the group’s national executive director, told WJLA.

AMVETS had applied in July to use the Pentagon parking lot.

Previously called Rolling Thunder, the former organizers ended the 32-year streak of Memorial Day rides in 2019, citing expenses as one of the main reasons for canceling the tradition, Military.com reported at the time.

Motorcyclists have rumbled into Washington on Memorial Day weekend for three decades in a noisy tribute to fallen soldiers.

“Rolling Thunder” started in 1987 to honor prisoners and those missing in action after the Vietnam War. The bikers roll through Washington and end up at the Pentagon, across the Potomac River in Virginia.

Former Army Sgt. Artie Muller, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran and co-founder of Rolling Thunder, told the news outlet staging the event costs around $200,000, including a $30,000 fee charged by the Defense Department when the group parked at the Pentagon.

In previous rides, between 50,000 and 100,000 motorcyclists participated, Military.com reported. The event aims to raise awareness for POWs and veteran suicide.

AMVETS maintains around 250,000 members and said it would be taking over the Memorial Day event after Rolling Thunder had its last ride two years ago. There was no ride in 2020 because of the pandemic.