Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to be on display at ‘Thunder at the River’ event

Flags lined the entrance to the Little River Casino Resort last year, welcoming visitors to the "Thunder at the RIver" event.

Technically it is a wall, nothing more.

Spiritually it is a bond, nothing less.

And it is the latter that makes it what it is — the Michigan Vietnam Memorial Wall.

The Wall will roll through Manistee at 1 p.m. today (Friday), behind an escort of Rolling Thunder of Manistee County motorcycles.

The Wall, like any memorial, is a stone-chiseled bond that binds those who sacrificed so much, with those who will never forget their sacrifices.

“People can walk up to The Wall, touch it or rub it, and it means something,” said John Stocki, a longtime member of Rolling Thunder. “Many people (are reduced) to tears — it’s an emotional thing for them.”

The Wall will be put on public display at this weekend’s Thunder at the River “3rd Annual Salute to Veterans” two-day event, that will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Little River Casino Resort.

As many as 400 motorcyclists and many more veterans from all across the state are expected to attend the event, which is being hosted by Rolling Thunder of Manistee County Chapter 1.

Funds raised at the event will go to support homeless veterans’ programs across northern Michigan, as well as other veterans’ related issues and needs.

“Money we make during this event will go to help the Patriots Place in Traverse City, and Jacobetti House in Marquette,” said Jerry Langhann, president of the Manistee-based Rolling Thunder club.

Both those places specialize in offering temporary, transitional housing to homeless veterans.

The weekend-long event is open to the public.

Over the course of a year the three dozen or so members of Rolling Thunder of Manistee County volunteer their time, talent and funds to support the aforementioned transitional sites for homeless veterans, as well as the Veterans Home in Grand Rapids, the Manistee County Medical Care Facility and more.

Members also routinely attend funerals for veterans all across northern Michigan, where they stand like silent sentinels while holding flags.

This weekend’s agenda of events includes:

Saturday, June 23:

° A visit of the Michigan Vietnam Memorial Wall, which will be presented by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 73 of Holland

° Fallen Heroes Memorial, which consists of a 3-man “living statue”

° Coast Guard helicopter fly-over, to coincide with the motorcycle ride

° Blessing of the bikes

° U.S. Army-sponsored climbing wall

° Classic motorcycle show

° Hooters girls motorcycle wash

° Live bands

° Vendors, silent auction and food

Sunday, June 24:

° Non-denominational worship service

° Poker run

° Live bands

° Hooters girls motorcycle wash

° Pig roast

° Vendors, silent auction and food

“Naturally, the public is invited to come out and be part of this two-day event,” Langhann said. “There will be plenty of things to see and do. And, like I mentioned, everything we do will be to benefit our veterans — everything.”

Langhann said organizers will also honor and recognize the Gold Star Mothers and Blue Star Mothers programs, which honor mothers of soldiers who die in service, or who are wounded in service, respectively.

“We’re (also) going to honor our local Bravo Troop, which is now serving in Afghanistan,” Langhann said.

Members of Rolling Thunder are scheduled to escort The Wall from the V.F.W. Walsh Post located on the city’s south side today, travel through the city, and then lead it to the casino/resort.

“We’re very honored to be able to escort this memorial,” he said. “We’re very proud to escort it.”

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Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

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