For the last 18 years, Marine veteran Tim Chambers has stood in full dress uniform along the route of the annual “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle ride in Washington, DC, saluting the millions of riders — many of them veterans — riding by.
But after organizers announced that last year’s ride would be their last one due to costs and other issues, the veteran service organization AMVETS stepped in to keep it going. So, Chambers, known as the “Saluting Marine,” is set to take up his post for at least another year.
“I thought I was going to be off the hook, but now AMVETS are going to continue it,” he told Breitbart News.
On Monday, AMVETS unveiled its inaugural patch and new logo for the ride, which is in honor and remembrance of U.S. prisoners of war and those still missing in action.
“In May 2020, the tradition will continue,” AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly said at a press conference on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of veterans and members of the public.
“Over the last 32 years, we’ve had millions and millions of motorcycle-riding patriots come to Washington, DC, to roll through the streets of Washington, through our nation’s capital to be able to stand up for our nation’s prisoners of war and the more than 81,000 missing in action who are still missing since World War II,” he said.
“We’re going to continue to honor that. We are going to continue to demand accountability. We’re going to continue to ensure that our government keeps its promise,” he said.
Chambers told the veterans watching, “For every year that I’ve held my salute in D.C., I’m standing in honor of your service, and there’s no higher honor for me to represent your service.”
“I’m proud to stand with AMVETS to continue this ride for our country, for our veterans, and the families left behind. Semper Fi,” he said.
But AMVETS officials warned that they believe the country is starting to forget those who have not yet returned home.
Chenelly said last year that as he and AMVETS national commander were walking through the Capitol building, Capitol police alerted them that the POW/MIA flag was disappearing from outside the offices of the House of Representatives.
They spent the night walking through the halls only to find that about 60 percent of U.S. representatives had taken the flag down from outside their offices.
“It was a clear sign to us that they no longer saw it as a priority,” he said. “There was no longer that reminder in the halls of Congress of those who are still missing, who sacrificed so much, and of those families, who still at this point do not know what happened to their loved ones and have not been able to have that closure.”
He said due to AMVETS’ efforts, about half of those members of Congress put the POW/MIA flag back up, but there are still about 30 percent of members who do not have the flag up. They have published a list on their website to track who still does not have the flag back up.
He said next year, when bikers arrive in Washington, DC, some will head over to Capitol building to see who has their flags up.
“Do not be a lawmaker who disappoints,” he said.
AMVETS National Commander Jan Brown said although there are not too many POW/MIA who are alive today, the Pentagon is identifying the remains of the missing “every single day.”
“They are scouring the world looking for our MIA, so this is still a very critical issue,” she said.
Next year’s ride, dubbed “Rolling to Remember,” will take place in May 2020 on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day.
In an interview with Breitbart News, Chambers said he remembers the first time he jumped off the curb 18 years ago to salute the veterans he saw zooming by.
“I wanted to thank them before they die because I bury them at funerals and I salute them, but I think that’s too late to pay our respects,” he said.
“It’s a four-to-five hour salute every year. I didn’t know it was going to be that long when I first jumped off the curb. But at the end of it, the way they embraced me, it was emotional. They told me I gave them the welcome home that they never got,” he said.
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