Bad Optics? In a break with over three decades of tradition, the Biden Defense Department has denied, for the first time ever, the American Veterans (AMVETS) organization its massive empty parking lot for the long-standing Memorial Day fallen heroes motorcycle rally. The amazing patriotic rolling parade of bikes had become a must-see event for those in the DC area, and a must-ride event for many veterans.
Fondly known as ‘Rolling Thunder’ since it began, in 2020 it was rebranded as ‘Rolling to Remember’ to highlight the purpose of the event.
AMVETS, a congressionally chartered veterans service organization, representing the interests of 20 million veterans, organizes the annual event.
The Rolling to Remember rally always takes place over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, with activities taking place over the entire three day period. It typically begins on Friday evening with the Blessing of the Bikes ceremony at the National Cathedral, followed by a candlelight vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to kick off the rally to remember our fallen heroes.
The Pentagon’s parking lot has traditionally served as the rallying point for the ride, allowing the veterans from all over the country to gather and organize before setting off on their rumbling steeds. This year though, according to the Washington Examiner, Biden’s Pentagon denied the use of the lot, citing COVID concerns, for DC, Northern Virginia and beyond.
This, despite the fact that all of the activities and the impressive long, slow ride of thousands of motorcycles from Virginia to DC are open air and outside. And the majority of veterans who participate are well over their 50s, most should be vaccinated.
Local DC 7News reported that “someone very high up at the Pentagon doesn’t like the optics of this event during a pandemic.” However, what the Pentagon is doing to these vets could really be described as ‘bad optics.’ Especially in light of the fact that DC and national museums are finally opening up again this month.
7News also explained that:
The Pentagon’s denial comes on the heels of the Smithsonian announcing last week that it will reopen eight of its facilities to the public in May, starting with the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly on Wednesday, May 5.
Additional museums and the National Zoo will open Friday, May 14, and Friday, May 21. Also on Friday, the United States Holocaust Museum announced that it plans to reopen on Monday, May 17 with reduced visitation, required face coverings, temperature checks, social distancing, and other safety measures.
The Pentagon did say in a statement that: “If COVID-19 conditions permit, the department would gladly consider supporting a future event request from AMVETS, potentially as soon as this Labor Day weekend.”
BREAKING: @AMVETSHQ tells me the @SecDef & @DeptofDefense has denied it the use of the Pentagon parking lot for this year’s @RollToRemember on Memorial Day weekend. The veteran’s group now will attempt to secure RFK Stadium as a new rallying point for 10K veterans. @7NewsDC pic.twitter.com/sVE8AgPGHl
— Scott Taylor 7 News I-Team (@ScottTaylorTV) April 30, 2021
According to AmVets Executive Director Joe Chenelly,”It’s very disappointing for our members,” but added, “You are absolutely right,” when asked if the ride would go on without a central rallying point.
“We are seeing it on websites and social media all over the place. Much smaller groups. They’re planning their own smaller rallying points, and they’re coming in.”
The group is reportedly looking to secure the site of the abandoned RFK Stadium as the new rallying point for the traditional ride. But, if that doesn’t work, Chenelly says riders will find their own rallying points scattered throughout the area and continue the ride as planned.
Nothing will stop the veteran bikers of Rolling Thunder. ADN