United by motorcycles, veterans

The week before Memorial Day, my husband and I drove to Virginia for the birth of our newest granddaughter, Elizabeth. We stayed in a hotel in Leesburg.

At breakfast one morning, I noticed a group of men wearing T-shirts and leather jackets having a good time.

As we left to go to the hospital, we saw about 20 motorcycles outside. My curiosity took over and this article was born.

These men come from eastern Massachusetts. They were from all walks of life: judges, firemen, policemen, military police, EMTs and even a nuclear power plant manager. They belong to the Berkshire Hills, Mass., chapter of a Harley owners’ group. But these men have more in common than just a love of Harleys.

Most are veterans, but some are not. Their uniting bond is a deep respect for our military — those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives; those still lost, such as our POWs and MIAs; those who are actively serving today; and those who have served in past wars.

They ride to say thank you.

The Berkshire Chapter is an active member of the Patriot Guard, a group that has an unwavering respect for those who risk their lives for America’s freedom and security Patriotguard.org. They attend the funerals of fallen American heroes at the invitation of the family as invited guests.

The chapter also supports Soldiers On, a nonprofit group that assists homeless veterans since 1994 Wesoldieron.org. Statistically, one out of five homeless people is a veteran.

Soldier On’s mission “is to offer a continuum of care that includes immediate and long-term housing, treatment and recovery for addiction, food, clothing, as well as medical, counseling, and job-related services.”

The chapter came to Washington D.C. to ride, honor, and say thank you to our veterans, parading by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Arlington Cemetery and across Memorial Bridge.

More than 400,000 motorcyclists came to Washington along with the Berkshire Chapter to be part of Rolling Thunder 2010, a tribute to America’s military, POWs and MIAs from all wars.

Founded in 1987 with 2,500 cycles as an exercise in the First Amendment “Right to Petition and Assemble”, Rolling Thunder has grown to a mammoth yearly event to show support for those who serve to keep us free.

They ride to say thank you. They ride to remind us of the sacrifice of our military. They ride to make us remember that our freedom came with a price.

Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by e–mail at phoeberobinson@bellsouth.net.