You see them coming….or hear them, rather. Tattooed men and women wearing black leather jackets or vests riding on motor bikes together in large groups. Most people, if they are being honest with themselves, automatically assume these individuals are a menace to society who have very little to offer the larger scheme and goodness to life. That assumption could not be further from the truth, especially with the organization Rolling Thunder.
Although a majority of members of Rolling Thunder do ride motor bikes, wear leather garb, and mostly likely have at least one tattoo, there are others who have none of these – including a motor bike.
All members choose to become involved due to the organization’s important mission, established in 1995. What is Rolling Thunder and what is their contribution to society?
Rolling Thunder is a national advocacy group whose mission is to bring about awareness, provide political action towards and accountability for the prisoners of war (POW) and missing in action (MIA) services members of all United States wars. It is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization with over 90 chartered chapters in the US (with members abroad.) Maine has one chapter, Maine-Chartered Chapter 1, located in Sanford with the goal to create a second chapter based out of the Greater Portland-Windham area by the end of the year.
The growth of Rolling Thunder in Maine is important due to the assistance they provide to Maine veterans. The organization donates funds towards a variety of programs that include the Biddeford Career House and the Huot House of Saco. Both of these programs provide health care services, career assistance, and other re-integration support to homeless vets. Not only does Rolling Thunder donate funds to these organizations, but they also provide financial support to the individuals for items such as car repairs, small kitchen appliances and food. Additionally, they offer monetary aid to assist with gas and electric bills for veterans at other local vet centers and provide healthy meals and school supplies to children of veterans. Rolling Thunder does its best to fill in the gaps of funding to as many returning vets as possible.
Rolling Thunder also offers funding towards Wreaths Across America. Here in Maine, Rolling Thunder Chapter 1 makes it their top priority to remember and honor Southern Maine veterans by placing wreaths on the graves at the Southern Maine Veteran Cemetery in Sanford. Furthermore, Rolling Thunder remembers the POW/MIA service members by joining with Hussey Seating and the “Chair of Honor.”
The “Chair of Honor” program places an empty chair in a public space as a reminder to the public that there are still over 90,000 service members who have not returned home since World War I. There is a local Chair of Honor provided at the IHOP in South Portland.
As with all organization who serve the greater good with financial assistance, fundraising efforts are a constant throughout the year. Rolling Thunder raises funds in many ways that include: An annual bowl-a-thon, multiple dinner buffets, all night dance-a-thons, yearly craft fairs and fundraising events at Portland Seadogs baseball field. Their next fundraising effort, a golf tournament, will be held on Sunday, July 24th at the Spring Meadows Golf Club in Gray. It is a four-person scramble. There is a 1 p.m. shotgun start, with registration beginning at 11 a.m. The cost to participate is $100/per player (after July 15th, $110/person.) That cost includes golfing, golf cart, food and prizes. All proceeds from this event will go directly to the 2016 wreath placement at the Southern Maine Veterans Cemetery. To register your team, visit http://www.rollingthunderme1.org/events.html to download a registration form or call 207-653-8650.
With the celebration of Independence Day just behind us, let it serve as a reminder to honor and remember all Maine Veterans and those who have not yet returned. President of Maine’s local chapter, Tim DeCosta of Windham, reminds us that there are still many veterans’ whose remains need to be identified and returned. There are families who still need closure, and for some – it has been over 50 years. Let us not forget the freedom and independence that we take for granted. More importantly, let us not forget those who risk their lives so that we continue to have that freedom and independence by honoring veterans, POWs and remembering those MIA. If you wish to make a tax deductible donation to or join Rolling Thunder-Chartered Chapter 1 (or the future organized Chapter 2), please visit http://www.rollingthunderme1.org/ or call Cindy DeCosta at 207-653-8650.