The Rolling Thunder Story

In the fall of 1987, in a little diner, in Somerville, New Jersey, two Vietnam veterans met to discuss their personal concerns about the prisoners of war (POW's) and military service personnel missing in action (MIA's) 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 two 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. These two veterans were Artie Muller and Ray Manzo.

The First Rolling Thunder Demonstration

Artie and Ray were ordinary men who understood that they had a right to have their voices heard and proceeded to lay down the plans for a Artie and Ray were ordinary men who understood that they had a right to have their voices heard and proceeded to lay down the plans for a advocates to unify and form a march and demonstration in the nations Capital. Their arrival would be announced by the roar of their Harleys.

Hence, they would gathering in 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/MIA's, and for the unity that was felt. This was Rolling Thunder's first demonstration.

Only until all POW/MIA's 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").

Rolling Thunder Today

The number of motorcycle participants in the Memorial Day weekend Ride for Freedom has grown from 2,500 to over hundreds of thousands; not to mention the tens of thousands pedestrian onlookers and participants. These numbers have been brought increasing notoriety to our cause, but it has not been without consequences. Since motorcycles have become synonymous with the Rolling Thunder name, it has created a misconception of the organizations true objectives and purpose and has sometimes overshadowed our many accomplishments and contributions to veterans and our local communities. It is not a "motorcycle club". Rolling Thunder's Mission Statement vows its major function is to publicize the POW/MIA issue: educate the public that many American Prisoners of War were left behind after all previous wars, to help correct the past and protect future veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners of War/Missing in Action, and be committed to helping American veterans from all wars.

Rolling Thunder was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1995 and is headquartered in New Jersey. Today, the organization has over 7,000 members throughout the United States, with a few in Canada. There are over 80 chartered Rolling Thunder chapters in the continental United States and the numbers continually grow. The chapters are strictly governed by the Constitution and By-Laws of the organization, with committee members working on issues that include; Government Affairs for the POW/MIA issue, Gulf War and Korean War Affairs, Veterans Community Assistance, School Education and Junior Members Youth Programs.

Rolling Thunder believes in the Army Ranger Creed that vows: "I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy..." Rolling Thunder will continue to grow and grow strength as long as even one person remains unaccounted for.

Supporting Local Veterans & Community Involvement

  • Rolling Thunder has donated funds to send search teams in Southeast Asia to look for POW's/MIA's and made a contribution to a POW family looking for their father in North Vietnam.

  • Chapters nation wide make monthly visits to their local VA hospital nursing homes and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Wards, are actively involved with the VA's Center of Recovery Empowerment (CORE), as well as a homeless veteran program being promoted by Miss America 2000 Heather French-Henry.

  • On a monthly basis members donate cases of food to the local VA hospitals to help subsidize our nation's poorly funded veteran's programs.  Truckloads of clothing are donated to homeless veterans and VA patients each year.

  • National has provided financial support to disabled veterans and their families not receiving full compensation from the VA.

  • Each year, Rolling Thunder veterans speak to youths and their parents at local area schools, scouting programs and other youth programs to educate them about the patriotism, freedom and human factor of war and the reality of the POW/MIA crisis.

  • The organization regularly donates POW/MIA flags to local schools, various organizations and interest groups and organizes flag raising ceremonies to promote public awareness.

  • Rolling Thunder greatly facilitated the publishing of a POW/MIA postage stamp through the U.S. Postal Service that displayed dog tags with the declaration "POW & MIA - NEVER FORGOTTEN."

Laws Passed Through Rolling Thunder Endeavors

Missing Service Personnel Act of 1997
This bill guarantees that missing servicemen and women could not be arbitrarily "killed on paper" by the U.S. Government without credible proof of death.

Bring Them Home Alive Act of 2000
The act provides for the granting of refugee status in the United States to national of certain foreign
countries in which American Vietnam POW/MIA's or American Korean War POW/MIA's are present, if those nationals assist in returning POW/MIA's alive.

Displaying the POW/MIA Flag over Federal Buildings: Military Facilities
Rolling Thunder was highly instrumental in passing legislation requiring that federal building, the Vietnam and Korean Memorials in Washington, D.C. and military facilities fly the POW/MIA flag on six national holidays.

POW/MIA Flag Flying Over War Memorials, S-1226
Passed November 15, 2002

Persian Gulf War POW/MIA Accountability Act
(Enacted October 29, 2002) (Speicher Bill)

Rolling Thunder legislative representatives again teamed up with Senator Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell to amend the Bring Them Home Alive Act of 2000. This new law extends the granting of refugee status in the united States to nationals of Iraq or the greater Middle East region. It provides for the International Broadcasting Bureau, which includes the Voice of America, to broadcast information about the law in the Middle East. In view of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on America, the bill now includes knowledge of POW/MIA's of the war against terrorism.

As a direct result of the Bring Them Home Alive Act of 2000 and the Persian Gulf Act of 2002, live American POW's were rescued in Operation Iraqi Freedom.