Annual Rolling Thunder memorial ride honors veterans

MANISTEE — Supporting veterans and the memories of those who didn’t come back was in full focus on Saturday during the ninth annual Thunder At the River event.

More than 300 motorcycles took part in the ninth annual Rolling Thunder Michigan Chapter 1 Pure Thunder Escorted Veterans Memorial Ride. The event was held at the Little River Casino Resort and raised money to support veterans.

More than 300 motorcycles took part in the ninth annual Rolling Thunder Michigan Chapter 1 Pure Thunder Escorted Veterans Memorial Ride. The event was held at the Little River Casino Resort and raised money to support veterans.

Although rumbling dark skies surrounded the the Little River Casino Resort only a few drops of rain fell giving hundreds of bikers the opportunity to participate in the Rolling Thunder Michigan Chapter 1 Pure Thunder Escorted Veterans Memorial Ride.

“We are anticipating 300 bikes today and I think we are going to get it,” said Rolling Thunder’s John Stocki. “Two years in a row we had the cloudy skies and threat of rain, but we are going ahead with the ride.”

Stocki said Friday’s opening day went well and drew about 150 riders for the first day of activities.

The riders escorted the traveling Michigan Vietnam Wall and the Michigan Middle Eastern Conflict Wall from the Manistee Veteran of Foreign Wars Walsh Post No. 4499 to the Little River Casino Resort. This is the first time the Michigan Middle Eastern Conflict Wall has been in Manistee and it contains the names of those who were killed in that conflict.

“We are so happy to have the Middle Eastern Wall this year to honor those that gave their lives,” said Stocki.

He added that one of the thing Rolling Thunder focuses on as well is those that didn’t come home.

“There are still some over there that we are looking for every day and hopefully now that we have got together with North Korea we can get some closure for some of those families and get those gentleman home. That is why we do what we do.”

Jim Lumpkin from Clinton Township who brought the Middle Eastern Wall to Manistee said it has been in existence now for three years.

“It is all Michigan soldiers who died in those conflicts and we have 268 names on the wall from all over the state of Michigan,” he said. “It is my way of paying back to those guys even though I served earlier. Last year we had it at 25 different locations and we plan to go to Sandford, Baraga and some other locations.”

Lumpkin said unlike the Vietnam wall that brings in more of a senior citizen group of people to view it, the Michigan Middle Eastern Conflict Wall brings in a younger group of veterans and family members.

“This is more of guys in their 30s and 40s and I had a couple guys who where here last night name four guys that were on this wall,” he said.

This year getting the walls to the Little River Casino from the Manistee VFW took a little planning due to construction taking place near Merkey Road and US 31 intersection. Stocki said thanks to some assistance from the crews working in that area they were able to make it through without a problem.

“A couple of us know the safety director who works for Reith Riley so we made some phone calls and were able to get through that area which was nice,” said Stocki. “It was a beautiful ride and we had a good turnout

The event also has proven to be a good fundraiser to assist veterans.

“We generated over $80,000 over the last eight years and a lot of it stays right here in Manistee County through the endowment fund for the veterans, the Disabled American Veteran van program, the veteran hospitals in Grand Rapids and up in the Upper Peninsula in Marquette,” said Stocki. “So we get a lot of support from the community and from the veterans organizations all over state.”

The big highlight of Saturday’s activities was the memorial ride  and the roar they made firing up their engines to embark on the ride that took them up M-22 to Frankfort, around Crystal Lake to Beulah and back to the casino. The group was led out by fly over from the United States Coast Guard helicopter.

Manistee County Sheriff John O’Hagan spoke to the riders prior to leaving reminding them to be careful and be on the defensive when taking their ride to make sure everyone made it back safely.

“Just be safe and enjoy yourself today as this is a fantastic cause and remember why we are doing this,” said O’Hagan.

A special message of thanks was also read to the riders by 9-year-old Sawyer Hendrickson who is a young girl  from Ludington who supports veterans and what they do for this country through a variety of projects.

“I would like to thank all our veterans here today for their service to our great country,” said Hendrickson. “Also our brave women and men who gave their lives to protect my freedom and for those generations to come. For the families of all veterans I also thank you for your sacrifice and support for those who have served.”

Hendrickson then led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance before they began their memorial ride.

 

avatar

Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

Leave a Reply