Michigan bikers honor fallen soldiers

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 9:19 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - For the second year in a row, the Rolling Thunder motorcycle fleet came to Michigan’s Capitol to honor fallen soldiers.

Their revving engines were heard before they were seen, and as they rounded the corner of Capitol Avenue, American flags came into view, waving in the wind. Dozens of riders put down their kickstands and made their way to the Capitol steps for a special ceremony that they say represents the true meaning of Memorial Day.

“It’s part of Memorial Day weekend,” said Rolling Thunder rider Joe Shepherd. “The veterans, our fallen heroes, the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice, so that we can have our freedom, and we can do things like this.”

Many riders are veterans themselves, like Greg Carrol, who served in the Navy from 1982 until 2002, making him a part of nearly every major U.S. conflict. For Carrol, Memorial Day stirs up intense emotion, but he’s making it through with the support of his fellow bikers, and his community.

“It means a lot to those of us that have been there, and to those folks that are serving right now,” he said. “God bless them.”

Other civilian riders came to the Capitol with the memory of a loved one in mind.

“My dad was in the military for 22 years, so for the first 13 years of my life, I grew up on army bases,” said Rolling Thunder rider Sandra Mark. “So it’s special for me, celebrating those that didn’t make it back.”

A number of guest speakers and performers had their turn on the Capitol steps, and shared with the crowd what Memorial Day means to them. To Director of the Michigan Veteran’s Affairs Agency, Adam Hollier, it’s standing in solidarity with people who are feeling the loss of a veteran.

“I think about the moms who lost sons and daughters,” he said. “I think about the wives and husbands who lost their spouse, and the children who grew up without their parents.”

It was an hours-long ride for Rolling Thunder, but they say it’s a trip worth making.

“When you hear the sound coming down the road, and you see the pack of the bikes coming down the road, people look, wonder what’s going on,” said Rolling Thunder Chapter Five President Duane Oparka. “It helps us to bring the message to people who don’t ride, and understand.”

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