Incorporated in 1995, Rolling Thunder®, Inc. is a class 501(c)(4) non-profit organization with over 90 chartered chapters throughout the United States and members abroad. While many members of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. are veterans and many ride motorcycles, neither qualification is a prerequisite.
Rolling Thunder®, Inc. members are old and young, men and women, veterans and non-veterans. All are united in the cause to bring full accountability for Prisoners Of War (POW) and Missing In Action (MIA) of all wars, reminding the government, the media and the public by our watchwords: “We Will Not Forget.”
The Rolling Thunder®, Inc. Story
In the fall of 1987, Vietnam veterans met to discuss their personal concerns about the POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War. Having honorably served their country and having taken an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies…” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to same,” they were deeply troubled by the abhorrent neglect of attention given to those who did not make it out with their lives or their freedom.
These veterans discussed the more than 10,000 reported sightings of live Americans living in dismal captivity. Intelligence reports of these sightings were generally ignored by the government and mainstream press.
The First Rolling Thunder®, Inc. Demonstration
The Founders of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. were ordinary men who understood that they had a right to have their voices heard and proceeded to lay down the plans for a gathering in Washington, D.C. during the 1988 Memorial Day weekend. They reached out to their families, fellow veterans and veteran’s advocates to unify and form a march and demonstration in the nation’s Capitol.
Their arrival would be announced by the roar of their motorcycles, a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder. Hence, they would call themselves “Rolling Thunder” a title that would endure time and be trademarked in 1990.
Word spread quickly and by Memorial Day weekend in 1988, approximately 2,500 motorcycles from all over the country converged on Washington, D.C. to demand from our leaders a full accounting of all POW/MIAs. As the Founders of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. made their stand that day in front of the Capitol, they reflected thankfully for the people who came in support of the POW/ MIAs and for the unity that was felt.
This was Rolling Thunder®, Inc.’s first demonstration. Only until ALL POW/MIAs ARE ACCOUNTED FOR, it will not be their last. On that day, the foundation was laid for the annual “Ride for Freedom” to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall (also referred to as the “Ride to the Wall”). The number of participants/spectators in the Memorial Day weekend Ride for Freedom has grown from 2,500 to an estimated 900,000.
Rolling Thunder®, Inc Chapters
Rolling Thunder®, Inc has 88 chapters covering 29 states, all of which are governed by the same constitution and bylaws. Many of Rolling Thunder’s members are veterans; however, that is not a requirement for membership.
Rolling Thunder®, Inc. also allows for the formation of new chapters worldwide. All chapters of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. have their own president and board members and are accountable for fund raising proceeds and tax information. New chapters must have a minimum of 20 members including the president and board members. Each Rolling Thunder®, Inc chapter is required to have a unique patch specific to only that chapter with no resemblance to another, and without infringing on any trademarks.
Rolling Thunder®, Inc has expanded its operations to include Rolling Thunder®, Inc Charities as of 2007, a class 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. This part of the organization adheres to the same laws that govern its parent corporation. Rolling Thunder®, Inc Charities was designed to help members as well as U.S. Military troops and their families that are in need of financial help. Rolling Thunder®, Inc Charities sells Rolling Thunder®, Inc memorabilia and conducts other fundraising activities.