NORTH CHICAGO – Hundreds of motorcyclists will depart from the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center on May 28 for the Rolling Thunder XXXV Mid-America Demonstration Parade, a 54-mile ride intended to increase POW/MIA awareness.
Members of Illinois’ three Rolling Thunder chapters encourage all area motorcyclists to participate. There is no cost and registration is not required, said Col. Wayne Kirkpatrick, a retired U.S. Army colonel who helps coordinate the event, which is in its 35th year.
”This is a free parade to demonstrate to our government that we still want accountability for the roughly 82,000 military personnel who are still missing and to educate the public that there are that many who remain unaccounted for,” Kirkpatrick said. “Many people don’t realize that.”
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 81,500 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars and other recent conflicts. Of those, about 75% are located in the Indo-Pacific and 41,000 are presumed lost at sea.
“We’d like a great turnout for the parade to show our communities that, hey, we are still out here fighting to have our POWs and MIAs accounted for, and as much as possible, repatriated,” Kirkpatrick said.
About 200 motorcyclists participated last May in the mid-America ride, one of many rides that take place throughout the country.
This year’s participants will stage from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Sunday, May 28, at Lovell, 3001 Green Bay Road, North Chicago. They will depart for Hines VA Hospital in Maywood at 11 a.m., heading south on Route 21 to Route 45 and passing through Libertyville, Vernon Hills, Half Day, Lincolnshire, Northbrook, Des Plaines, Rosemont, Schiller Park, Franklin Park, Melrose Park, River Grove and River Forest along the way.
After the stop at Hines, participants will continue to Cantigny Park, passing through Broadview, Westchester, Oakbrook Terrace, York, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton and Winfield.
The parade will end at the Army First Infantry Division Museum at Cantigny Park.
A new feature of this year’s remembrance and awareness activities will be a candlelight vigil the night before the ride. This will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 27, at Fort Sheridan National Cemetery on Vattman Road, Lake Forest. A multidenominational service is planned, Kirkpatrick said.
”We’re trying to get clergy from multiple faiths – Muslim, Jewish, Christian and others – to speak, to represent all of our soldiers,” he said. “We are also planning to dedicate a POW/MIA Chair of Honor to the First Infantry Division Museum at Cantigny on Sunday.”
Kirkpatrick said the Memorial Day weekend demonstration parade is lengthy by design.
”The reason this is a 54-mile ride is to communicate to the vets in our VA hospitals – as well as to the people in the communities along the route – that we’re still thinking of you guys and we haven’t given up on bringing all of our brothers and sisters home.”
For information on the demonstration parade and vigil, visit rollingthunderil2.org.