There’s not much arguing about the ‘hero’ status we owe to surviving World War II vets, and the parades, testimonials and commemorative banquets we’ve attended as a part of ‘Detroit: Our Greatest Generation’ shows that the spirit of honor displayed by Michigan’s current generation is heartfelt.

A debt of gratitude is owed to the men and women who have organized these events, who in doing so, have become heroes in their own right.

Nowhere is this displayed more proudly than in the activities of the Rolling Thunder, a non-profit organization with over 88 chartered chapters throughout the United States and abroad.  Incorporated in 1995, members are united in the cause to bring full accountability for POWs and MIAs of all wars, reminding the government, the media and the public by the watchwords: We Will Not Forget. The name Rolling Thunder is derived from the bombing of North Vietnam in 1965 which was given the name ‘Operation Rolling Thunder’.

Though Rolling Thunder is often viewed as a bike club, this aspect, which includes many members, is not a pre-requisite for membership.  Rolling Thunder is comprised of  bikers and non-bikers, old and young, men and women, veterans and non-veterans alike.

A spokesperson for the group, Bill Rocheleau, consented to be interviewed in the yard of his lakefront Howell property in connection with a specific cause that’s been particularly close to the heart of Rolling Thunder’s eighty-member strong Chapter Five. 

Without using names pending the outcome of the trial, we’ll say that thanks to Bill’s efforts in highlighting the plight of a Brighton World War II veteran, who was attacked and beaten in his home by thugs intent on robbery, and likely worse, Rolling Thunder has united to offer assistance, both financial and emotional, to the 84 year old widower whose service to the country includes D-Day landings at both Utah and Omaha beach.  They’ve appeared en masse to support this gentleman during the pre-trial proceedings and have remained in close contact with him since his release from the hospital, seeing that he is both cared for and protected.  Says Bill, “We are trying to move beyond his status as ‘victim’ and lift him back to elevation where he belongs: As a hero.”

A few bullet points may help illustrate the phenomenal support that the larger organization of Rolling Thunder has shown to vets of all conflicts, World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan:

·         Rolling Thunder, Inc. spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in financial aid, food, clothing and other essentials to veterans, homeless veterans and veterans' families in need, women's' crisis centers and toys for children. 

·         In 2005, Rolling Thunder, Inc. united with the National Alliance of POW/MIA Families to petition the U.S. Government to use the designation “Prisoner of War/Missing in Action” (POW/MIA) – a designation recognized by the Geneva Conventions - not “Missing/Captured”.  This will ensure that prisoners’ rights and protections remain consistent under the Geneva Conventions.

·         Expenditures exceed over half a million dollars a year, nationwide, to educate the public and increase awareness about the POW/MIA issue and other injustices suffered by veterans.  The organization regularly donates POW/MIA flags to local area schools, youth groups, non-profit organizations and special interest groups, and organizes flag raising ceremonies.  Veterans speak to youth groups about the honor of serving their country and educating them about the POW/MIA issue.

·         Rolling Thunder, Inc. sponsors search missions into Southeast Asia for POWs/MIAs, and the remains of those killed in action

·         Thousands of hours are logged in by Rolling Thunder, Inc. members at local VA hospitals nationwide. Members visit and provide moral support to nursing home veterans and patients suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

·         Rolling Thunder, Inc. helped facilitate the publishing of a POW/MIA U.S. postage stamp through the U.S. Postal Service that displayed dog tags with the declaration - "POW & MIA - NEVER FORGOTTEN"

·         Rolling Thunder, Inc. National is on the Board of Directors of the Ride to the Wall Foundation, a veterans' fund established through the sales of the musical CD, "Ride to the Wall" produced for Rolling Thunder XIV by Paul Revere & the Raiders in cooperation with Rolling Thunder, Inc..

·         Rolling Thunder, Inc. participated in the dedication of the World War II Memorial in 2004 and assisted with organizing the World War II parade that took place on that historic date.

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