Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was first observed on May 30, 1868 in order to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers. It was declared a national holiday by Congress in 1971 to be celebrated on the last Monday in May. I find it so strange that people will wish you a “Happy Memorial Day”. Kind of an oxymoron having “happy” associated with a solemn holiday when we are remembering our veterans, especially those that have died in service to their country defending our freedoms.
The National Moment of Remembrance was also established by Congress and it asks Americans, wherever they are at 3 p.m., local time, on Memorial Day, to pause in an act of national unity for one minute. Congress chose 3 p.m. because it is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.
This year in Washington (DC) there are a lot of public events that anyone can attend as long as you don’t mind the crowds. There is a concert sponsored by PBS tonight on the South Lawn of the Capital, there is a parade of marching bands and veterans from all 50 states on Monday, and wreath laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial National Memorial. In my opinion, the most impressive gathering is the 21st Rolling Thunder.
This year, Rolling Thunder expects to break last year’s participation of over 400,000 motorcycles with almost 825,000 particpants in their weekend-long get-together. I had never heard of Rolling Thunder until I moved to the area. Now, I look forward to the bikes, the noise, and the characters that begin rolling into the Metro DC area beginning the Friday before Memorial Day Monday. The riders are almost all decked out in leather with a U.S. flag somewhere on their clothing and on their bikes. They are loud! And, you can’t miss them. I live about 25 miles outside of the District, and this morning I could hear a large group about 1/2 mile away gunning their engines as they make the trek into Washington. (And, yes, Clover heard the Thunder, thought it was a real storm coming, ran inside and up the stairs and hid in the closet for a half-hour.)
Taken from the Rolling Thunder website:
“The major function of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. is to publicize POW-MIA issues: To educate the public that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war-missing in action.”
Can you imagine what 400,000 motorcycles, mostly Harley-Davidsons, sound like when they rev up their engines all at the same time?
It sounds like thunder.