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Make no mistake about it: Rolling Thunder is not a motorcycle club.
Rather, the non-profit organization, which has many members who ride motorcycles, is a veteran’s support group focused on prisoners of war and missing in action issues.
“Our major goal around here is public awareness,”said Jack Killian, Rolling Thunder Inc. Kentucky Chapter Four president elect.
Chapter Four of the national group covers Louisville, Lexington, Fort Knox, Frankfort, Shelbyville and Elizabethtown. The chapter has 71 members, Killian said.
Like the national chapter, the local chapter strives to raise awareness of POW/MIA issues, particularly the fact that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all past wars, Killian said.
The chapter also helps veterans in the community.
“We donate every year to something on Fort Knox,”Killian said, citing a program similar to the Angel Tree the group contributes to at the military installation.
Additionally, the local Rolling Thunder chapter sets up booths at events such Hooray For Heroes in Radcliff, Rineyville Days and Lebanon Junction Days, among others.
“We go to the VA hospital every month, rain or shine,”Killian said.
Members visit with patients at the Louisville hospital and find out how they’re being treated.
Through Interlink Counseling Services in Louisville, which provides care to homeless veterans and helps them become productive members of society, the chapter donates money and necessities, he said.
“Those guys appreciate what we do,”Killian said.
Rolling Thunder Kentucky Chapter Four also participates on a national level. Each year, members of the organization converge on Washington, D.C., during a demonstration that has become known as the Ride for Freedom, or Ride to the Wall, during which members ride to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
“It’s basically a protest run,”Killian said.
As noted at the national chapter website, the purpose for Ride for Freedom is to point out the lack of action by the U.S. government in bringing home remaining live POWs and MIAs and addressing veterans’issues.
Though about 95 percent of the members ride motorcycles, Killian said that’s not what the organization is about and does not want that to be the perception. But the national event, on Memorial Day, benefits from the large riding membership to draw attention to the organizations true cause.
“It’s pretty awesome when you go up to the Pentagon parking lot with a bunch of motorcycles,”Killian said.
Membership in Rolling Thunder is not limited to those who have served.
“We have quite a few members who are not veterans,”he said.
Anyone concerned about POW/MIA issues and other veteran issues are welcomed to join. In fact, Killian said members come from “all walks of life.”
To join, Killian said, a potential member must attend three chapter meetings and three events, a standard set by the national chapter.
Meetings are at 2 p.m. the first Sunday of every month at Colvin Community Center in Radcliff. For more information, visit www.rollingthunderkych4.com.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.