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New Jersey's Annual Rolling Thunder Ride

Written by  September 30, 2004

I usually write an article or two for this section of the magazine, however, this month a story was submitted to me and since it was top notch, I decided to share it. The writer is Scott Ferguson from Gannett, New Jersey. He covered a very special ride for the Rolling Thunder New Jersey Chapter 2, as they rode to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Holmdel. The following is Scott’s take on the people and activities throughout that special day.

In his younger days, Lance Evans' father used to read him 'Tommy,' Rudyard Kipling's poem about the lives of British soldiers. Evans, now 59, would remember that poem, especially the lines about how society takes soldiers for granted, when he fought in Vietnam between 1965 and 1966. 'I came to realize that soldiers are responsible for our freedom and our life's pleasures, and then they get the least recognition,' stated Evans, who lives in Stafford. 'That's why we keep coming every year -- to make sure the vets are recognized.'

Evans, along with some 5,000 other veterans, made sure that their friends and fellow soldiers received that recognition at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Holmdel on Sunday, September 20th.
All were part of the Rolling Thunder New Jersey Chapter 2's ninth annual Ride for Freedom, which raises awareness for soldiers who are missing in action or prisoners of war. Each year, between 3,000 and 5,000 black-clad veterans and other motorcycle enthusiasts ride south from North Jersey to the Veterans' Memorial.

After gathering at the memorial, the group dedicates several wreaths to those soldiers from New Jersey who died in Vietnam and those who have still not returned. “There are 55 soldiers from New Jersey who went to Vietnam and have not been accounted for to this day,” said Kelly L. Watts, the executive director of the memorial.

“This year, in addition to remembering veterans, the group also recognized the soldiers and Marines still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Bill Parker, the chapter president and a Korean War veteran.

One of chapter's special guests -- called a Gold Star Mother -- was Vicki Baker of Browns Mills. On November 15, her son, Specialist Ryan Travis Baker of the 101st Airborne, died in Iraq after his helicopter was shot down. 'These guys are great,' Baker, 47, said through tears. 'They have been my shoulder to cry on. They are my family. They are an amazing group of people. They have all lost somebody,' she said. 'They know what I've been through, and they know what my son went through.'

Thanks Scott for sharing this story of veterans and those that are left behind. Visit their web site to get a better feeling for this beautiful memorial tribute managed by Rolling Thunder.


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