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Rolling Thunder veterans group makes final ride through Washington

Updated : May 27, 2019 08:28 AM IST

The Rolling Thunder motorcycles that descend on Washington, DC every Memorial Day weekend made their final ride on Sunday, ending a three-decades-old tradition that was initially meant to serve to pay tribute to fallen and missing-in-action soldiers. The veterans advocacy group, formed in 1987 by 73-year-old Vietnam veteran Artie Muller, got its name from a 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed "Operation Rolling Thunder." President Donald Trump gave the group a shout out on Twitter on Sunday, where he pledged that the annual rides in Washington would continue. "The Great Patriots of Rolling Thunder WILL be coming back to Washington, DC next year, & hopefully for many years to come," Trump wrote. For years, the group has become synonymous with the annual Memorial Day celebration in the nation's capital, where thousands of motorcycles meet in the Pentagon parking lot and continue their ride across the Memorial Bridge toward the National Mall. Late last year, the group announced it would be making this May its final ride, citing a lack of cooperation by law enforcement and rising costs of permits.

World War II veteran and USMC Sgt Bruce Heilman (ret.), 93, of Richmond, Virginia, awaits the start of the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder
World War II veteran and USMC Sgt Bruce Heilman (ret.), 93, of Richmond, Virginia, awaits the start of the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, US, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
A motorcycle rider and passenger cheer as they pass crowds during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder
A motorcycle rider and passenger cheer as they pass crowds during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, US, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
A motorcycle rider stops to salute USMC Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers (ret.), and USMC Sgt. Bruce Heilman (ret.), 93, of Richmiond, Virginia, during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder
A motorcycle rider stops to salute USMC Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers (ret.), and USMC Sgt. Bruce Heilman (ret.), 93, of Richmiond, Virginia, during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, US, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
A motorcycle rider passes crowds and combat boots, representing the fallen military, during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder
A motorcycle rider passes crowds and combat boots, representing the fallen military, during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, US, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
A motorcycle rider with American flag fluttering passes crowds during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder
A motorcycle rider with American flag fluttering passes crowds during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, US, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
USMC Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers (ret.) salutes motorcycle riders as they pass by during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder
USMC Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers (ret.) salutes motorcycle riders as they pass by during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, US, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
A motorcycle rider in a Rolling Thunder t-shirt joins tourists at the Lincoln Memorial prior to the start of the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder
A motorcycle rider in a Rolling Thunder t-shirt joins tourists at the Lincoln Memorial prior to the start of the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, US, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
Notes and photos are seen left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall prior to the start of the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder
Notes and photos are seen left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall prior to the start of the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, US, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
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