The roar of thousands of motorcycles will return to Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend for a series of events honoring the nation's prisoners of war and missing-in-action, with comedian Jon Stewart and other advocates set to talk about the burn pits issue.
In a release, the AMVETS veterans service organization, which has taken up the mantle for the discontinued "Rolling Thunder" annual rides through the District, said the new "Rolling To Remember" rally will also call for action to prevent veteran suicides.
"The message will be clear throughout" the weekend, AMVETS said in the release. "We will never forget our POWs and MIAs, and we won't stop fighting for real solutions to the suicide crisis."
From the staging area in the parking lot of RFK Stadium, about two miles east of the U.S. Capitol, the schedule calls for a "blessing of the bikes" on Friday, May 27, at Washington National Cathedral. That will be followed by a "Pass the PACT" rally, referencing congressional legislation looking to provide greater medical benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits at RFK on Saturday; that event will feature Stewart.
Stewart, who advocated for 9/11 first responders exposed to toxic fumes from the collapse of the World Trade Center, has taken up the cause of veterans who were exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He has lobbied for Congress to pass the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act and in January told the House Veterans Affairs Committee that "there really should be one job here and one job alone -- how to implement first-rate health care for our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans."
"Rolling To Remember" is scheduled to conclude with a ride by thousands of bikers from RFK to the National Mall on Sunday, May 29.
"Rolling Thunder" ended its 32-year run of Memorial Day weekend rides through the District in 2019. Long-time Rolling Thunder leader Artie Muller cited the escalating costs of putting on the event as the main reason for discontinuing the rides. "It just costs too much," Muller told Military.com at the time.
AMVETS sought to hold a similar event in 2020 but had to go virtual because of COVID-19 restrictions. Rolling To Remember began in earnest in 2021.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.