'Thunder' riders roll through Carroll

-A A +A

Rolling Thunder riders and Freightliner “Ride of Pride” drivers stop over in Hillsville on their way to Washington D.C. for annual Memorial Day event

By Ethan Campbell

HILLSVILLE — An organization with a powerful message rolled through Carroll County last Thursday morning while on their way to Washington D.C., leaving passersby thunderstruck while bringing in the Memorial Day weekend.

Rolling Thunder Inc., headquartered in New Jersey, is a non-profit organization established in 1987 that publicizes the issues of prisoners of war and missing in action service members (POW/MIA), while educating the public that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all previous wars. They work to correct the past and to protect future veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war or missing in action.

The organization has more than 90 chartered chapters across the U.S. Each year, chapters ride together to the nation’s capital as a way to show remembrance of all POW/MIA, and to honor all past, present, and future veterans. On May 23, members from chapters in Statesville, N.C., and Winston-Salem, N.C., stopped to refuel and spread their message off of Interstate 77’s Exit 14 in Hillsville.

Also part of the convoy were representatives of the Freightliner truck manufacturing plant in Cleveland, N.C., with four 2019 Freightliners painted with custom designs to honor branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and all POW/MIA.

While making their local pit stop, many Rolling Thunder members took the opportunity to thank members of law enforcement for their service. One rider, Evan “Biscuit Eater” Parton, a representative of the organization “Tribute to the Troops,” presented a star from a retired U.S. flag to each law enforcement member present who worked traffic control for the group as they passed through.

“To all the men and women of law enforcement, I thank you and salute you for your dedicated service of keeping this community, my community and all communities across our nation safe,” Parton said. “We know you do what you because you choose to make that sacrifice, and put your lives in danger to protect the lives of others.”

In addition, he reiterated the organization’s focus. “Tribute to the Troops is an organization of grateful Americans dedicated to preserving the memory of those men and women of our nation’s military who lost their lives while bravely protecting our freedom. It is in their memory that we honor and convey our heartfelt gratitude to family and friends left behind, and extend our sincere appreciation to all veterans who have served, whether in war or in peace.”

Members of both the Hillsville Police Department and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office wished riders well on their journey this weekend.

Afterward, the Hillsville Police Department issued a public statement: “We are proud to be able to assist our U.S. military veterans on their annual ride to Washington D.C. A salute to all veterans and thank you for your sacrifice on this Memorial Day. Hillsville Police Department wishes everyone a safe a blessed weekend.”

According to Rolling Thunder’s social media profile, members work on issues such as government affairs for the POW/MIA issue, Gulf War and Korean War affairs, veterans community assistance, education and junior members’ youth programs.

As a result of the organization’s work, key federal legislation has been passed to help and protect veterans, including the Missing Service Personnel Act of 1997, the Bring Them Home Alive Act of 2000 and the Persian Gulf War POW/MIA Accountability Act of 2002. As a direct result of those latter two pieces of legislation, live American POWs were rescued in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Each year, Freightliner partners with Rolling Thunder Inc.

In a commemorative 2019 Military Challenge coin, Freightliner representatives provided a message: “After 9-11, a group of veterans from the Cleveland Freightliner plant wanted to honor our veterans in some way. They designed a specially decaled truck to be built in honor of veterans. This became known as the ‘Ride of Pride.’ That was in 2002. We are now in our 17th year of the ROP program. This coin is our version of a military challenge coin. This coin is to thank and honor you for your service!”