Post & Images by Jack McIntyre. Info provided by Mark Schultz.
It’s always Sunny in Philadelphia, right? Well for this terrific parade it was. Being a former Marine, I was able to move in and about the parade talking with WWII Marine Vets. Wow, one Marine was at the Battle of Tarawa in 1943 and still in Asia for the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. Just incredible, today’s youngsters couldn’t even imagine what that must have been like. Continue reading THE 2018 PHILADELPHIA VETERANS DAY PARADE→
Today was a special day for me. Being a former Marine, joining ten thousand of my Military brothers, especially bringing hundreds of Motorcycles into the mix, is right up my alley. We all gathered in Center City Philly , the weather called for morning rain, but God had other ideas in mind & sent us some sun & warmer winds as the hours passed by. It was a gathering that involved motorcycles obviously, but what aren’t in my images are the large groups of veteran’s organizations, prior military, marching bands, and more. I can only post just so many images, so please enjoy what I have shared and visit our great city, we do these types of events all the time, and because of that I love living in Philadelphia. For lot’s of details on this organization, please visit: http://www.phillyveteransparade.org/
Victory to donate $100 to IAVA for every “Thank A Hero” note submitted on behalf of a U.S. military veteran or active service member
MINNEAPOLIS — November 1, 2016 — Victory Motorcycles® is proud to launch the “Thank A Hero” program, which invites the public to thank a military veteran or active service member with a personalized note posted to the VictoryMotorcycles.com website.
Launching today, November 1, the beginning of Military Appreciation Month, the Thank A Hero program benefits Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), an organization committed to providing support and resources to the newest generation of U.S. military veterans.
For every note that’s submitted, Victory will donate $100 to IAVA on the hero’s behalf. Also, when people submit their Thank A Hero notes to their loved ones, they’ll have an option to share their “salute” on Facebook and Twitter.
“IAVA is proud of our partnership with Victory Motorcycles that’s helped us raise awareness for our community from Washington, D.C. to Sturgis, SD,” said Anthony Pike, IAVA Chief Programs Officer and USMC and Iraq War Veteran. “Victory’s ‘Thank a Hero’ initiative will take that effort one step further and will help IAVA achieve its goal this Veterans Day of uniting Americans behind our veterans. We cannot thank Victory Motorcycles enough for their continued dedication to the Post-9/11 generation of veterans and generosity that supports IAVA’s work on behalf of our over 400,000 members.”
The Thank A Hero program is one of the ways Victory Motorcycles and Victory riders and dealers are saluting military veterans and those currently serving. Additionally, on Saturday November 19, the public is invited to visit their local Victory Motorcycles dealer for a charity ride in honor of the IAVA. Any individuals who have served in the military, police, or fire department will receive $1,000 off the purchase of any new Victory heavyweight bike and $500 off the purchase of a new Victory Octane. Log on to http://www.victorymotorcycles.com/en-us/thank-a-hero for more information.
As a strategic partner of IAVA, Victory has provided financial support and resources to help IAVA raise awareness of veterans’ issues and the resources that IAVA provides. Scott Wine, Chairman and CEO of Victory’s parent company, Polaris, received the 2015 IAVA Civilian Leadership Award. And the Victory “Hero’s Metal” program provides military personnel and veterans, as well as police and fire personnel, with $1,000 off the price of a new Victory motorcycle ($500 off a new Octane).
Founded in 2004 by an Iraq veteran, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is the first and largest organization for the more than 2.8 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. As the group’s website notes: “IAVA strives to build an empowered generation of veterans who provide sustainable leadership for our country and their local communities.” For details about IAVA programs and how you can support IAVA or get involved, visit www.iava.org.
ABOUT VICTORY MOTORCYCLES®
Victory Motorcycles designs, engineers, manufactures and markets a full line of cruisers, baggers and touring motorcycles. Every Victory model delivers industry-leading performance, comfort, style, storage and reliability. The first Victory was produced on the Fourth of July, 1998, in Spirit Lake, Iowa, where every Victory motorcycle continues to be produced today. Information about Victory motorcycles, apparel and accessories is available at www.victorymotorcycles.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/VictoryMotorcycles
ABOUT POLARIS® INDUSTRIES
Polaris Industries Inc. (NYSE: PII) is a global powersports leader with annual 2015 sales of $4.7 billion. Polaris fuels the passion of riders, workers and outdoor enthusiasts with our RANGER®, RZR® and POLARIS GENERAL™ side-by-side off-road vehicles; our SPORTSMAN® and POLARIS ACE® all-terrain off-road vehicles; VICTORY® and INDIAN MOTORCYCLE® midsize and heavyweight motorcycles; SLINGSHOT® moto-roadsters; and Polaris RMK®, INDY®, SWITCHBACK® and RUSH® snowmobiles. Polaris enhances the riding experience with parts, garments and accessories sold under multiple recognizable brands, and has a growing presence in adjacent markets globally with products including military and commercial off-road vehicles, quadricycles, and electric vehicles. www.polaris.com
The Rolling Thunder organization presented a powerful presence in Washington D.C. over Memorial Day weekend this year, as it’s done for 27 straight years. Coincidentally the 2014 Run was bookended by two news events that may have raised the organization’s visibility even more so: the revelations of mismanagement in the Department of Veterans Affairs and the release of Afghanistan POW Bowe Bergdahl.
Though those events may have further increased general awareness of U.S. military veterans, neither altered the massive motorcycle ride from the Pentagon into Washington D.C. on Sunday May 25th; it was as spirited and compelling as ever with radical patriotism and blatant emotion boldly on display. And there was a full house at Rolling Thunder’s hospitality gathering the night before, too, with Executive Director Artie Muller reiterating the mission: we’re not giving up until everyone is back home and accounted for. Further, he added that an unresponsive government makes the need for Rolling Thunder even greater. “We have to keep going, we have to keep making a lot of noise,” he said.
Initially formed to bring attention to the POWs and MIAs from Vietnam, RT also advocates for veteran’s rights for all military people. The more I interact with Rolling Thunder the more I learn. This year I noticed more younger members, veterans of recent conflicts, attending Rolling Thunder in force. That’s good because the future of the Rolling Thunder organization depends on new members to insure that veterans’ issues stay relevant to all Americans. And I was lucky to meet Chris Noel, a one-time starlet who appeared in Elvis Presley films before making veterans concerns her personal mission—a cause for which she’s worked tirelessly for decades. It was heartening to learn, too, that funds from RT are distributed directly to recipients: active, retired or disabled military people and their families. RT chapters provide wheel chairs, build access ramps, and do home repairs. It’s the kind of giving that makes a tangible difference.
The day before the demonstration ride this year a group of Rolling Thunder members visited residents at a Maryland vet’s hospital as they usually do, a visit that was planned well ahead of time but made more poignant by the news of poor treatment at America’s veteran’s hospitals. Said one participant, “That visit made the entire weekend for me. It put things in perspective.”
Over the years, the Rolling Thunder event has expanded to incorporate the larger D.C. metro area with activities spreading well beyond Constitution Avenue. Regional Harley-Davidson dealers such as Fort Washington hold open house events and host their own rides into the city on Sunday. One American Legion in Greenbelt, Maryland hosts a breakfast followed by a group ride into D.C. via the Baltimore-Washington Parkway escorted by the National Park Police. In a city of this size, how often do you think ramp restrictions and lane closures occur simply for the convenience of motorcycle riders? The answer: once a year and this is it. Thanks to Roy and Margaret of C&C Cycle, we rode with this group. The Park Police got us into the District in record time and parked us in a secret spot easily walkable to the Lincoln Memorial. (See Sidebar.)
Of course, people rode to Washington from all over the country, many traveling in one of the three planned rides that RT sanctioned. But smaller, free form groups are quite typical and it’s common to find groups of friends who have made RT an annual pilgrimage. I met up with some folks who have traveled to RT for many years, first riding as a group from New England, now meeting there from various points due to life changes over the years. Steve’s brother John was one of the original riders who gathered up his buddy Gumby and a few others to make the trip to D.C. from Massachusetts in the late ‘80s. They were mainly military men who saw the trip as a show of respect for lost brothers and an affirmation of their camaraderie.
Just within this small group, years passed as riders fell out and joined in; though John passed away a few years ago, the pilgrimage continues. This year, telling lies and stories around the fire at their campground HQ, were Steve and Gumby plus Steve’s nephew Paulie from Florida, and niece Bailey, in the Navy and recently posted to a base in southern Maryland. Being there among them as an observer gave me a window on authentic friendship, with all its warts and flaws, the kind that weathers well and becomes more than friendship, a family of choice. That said, pranking runs rampant with these guys, so you have to learn fast, and don’t turn your back for a second.
These people, their stories, the traditions they perpetuate are emblematic of Rolling Thunder. It’s this kind of goofing around, silly stories and habitual customs that resonate everywhere at Rolling Thunder, in small groups and large. The kind of antics you might find at any biker rally where people congregate habitually but here there’s another layer. At Rolling Thunder the good-natured camaraderie is salted with echoes of regret, memory and tragedy restlessly rumbling ever so barely under the surface. It’s personal and private while also being so very public in scope and reach.
That’s just how Rolling Thunder is, and that’s the way it will remain. As long as people continue to remember and to care.
How to Get a National Park Police Escort (without the ticket)
Now retired and loving life, Ronnie Gould worked as a mechanic for the National Park Police for several decades. One day 15 or more years ago, Ronnie thought it would be a good idea to start a ride into D.C. from the Greenbelt, MD American Legion where he hung out. “It was the ninth or tenth year of Rolling Thunder,” he said. “Before long, when the group had grown to over 300 bikes, I sent a formal letter requesting a Park Police escort.”
Since then, the ride has become a regional favorite, starting with breakfast at the Legion followed by a Park Police escorted ride on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. And there’s no fooling around when the Park Police are involved. “We have to beat Fort Washington H-D into the city with their 25,000 bikes,” said Ronnie. “One year we left late and it was a long wait till they went by.”
Ronnie rode his ’76 Shovelhead, a refurbished Park Police bike he calls the Rose Tattoo that he built up in his basement, “like Johnny Cash’s Cadillac, one piece at a time.” He changed it from electric start to a kicker as a safety measure, he explained, “because after drinking at the Legion if I couldn’t start it myself I shouldn’t ride it.” He’s ridden the bike to Daytona since 1979 where he parks on the beach and gets pretty girls to pose with it. He’s got the photo album to prove it, too, right in the saddlebag. Wearing his flamed Chucks and with a leather bota bag of his homemade wine available for tasting, Ronnie is a rolling sideshow—and a helluva good hearted guy.
Ronnie’s buddy Mark, a.k.a. Shamrock, another of the trio who started the Legion ride, was on hand this year, too. Mark rides a first year trike built by Lehman for Harley-Davidson with custom details that represent his Irish heritage. He also has a ‘76 Shovel similar to Ronnie’s and just finished restoring a ‘34 Ford.
Why go to this trouble all these years to organize the ride? “The names on that wall are buddies of mine, guys that I went to school with,” said Ronnie. “It’s just to say thank you.”