Memorial Day weekend means Rolling to Remember in D.C.

REMEMBERCOVER
Marine Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers salutes as motorcyclists participate in the "Rolling to Remember" motorcycle rally as they ride past the Lincoln Memorial on May 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. The ride was to raise awareness of the critical issues facing the nation's veterans. Photo credit Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Expect to hear the sounds of thousands of motorcycles if you live in the Washington, D.C. area this weekend as Rolling to Remember makes a return to the nation’s capital.

Sponsored by AMVETS, the demonstration ride aims to raise awareness of the nation’s more than 80,000 Missing In Action service members and Prisoners of War, as well as awareness of the mental health crisis taking the lives of around 22 veterans a day by suicide.

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“It’s the largest one-day event for gathering veterans in an effort to bring all our missing in action, POW/MIAs back home and to enhance suicide awareness of the 22 veterans who die by suicide each day,” said AMVETS National Commander and Navy veteran Greg Heun.

The event kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. with the Blessing of the Bikes at Washington National Cathedral. At 8 p.m., a candlelight vigil will take place at the National Vietnam Wall War Memorial. Volunteers and staff will provide glowsticks. A small party will lay a wreath at the memorial.

On Saturday, the Rolling to Rember 2.2-mile run/walk steps off at 9 a.m. at RFK Stadium Parking Lot 8. AMVETS Chief Medical Executive & HEAL (Health Advocacy Evaluation Legislative) Team Lead Cherissa Jackson will begin the run/walk accompanied by Kevin Lacz, former Navy Seal, NYT best-selling author, and co-star of the film “American Sniper.”

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The Rolling to Remember Day of Prevention begins at noon in RFK Lot 8. Broken into 22-minute segments, the stage activity will alternate between programmatic information around mental wellness and suicide prevention and mission-focused musical performances.

“Just like the battle for our POW/MIAs, the struggle for veterans coming back with these issues should be at the front of our thoughts as well,” added Heun.

At 1 p.m., veteran advocate Jon Stewart and a coalition of veterans organizations will hold the “Pass The PACT Act Rally DC” event to highlight the need for the Senate to pass the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics ACT Act.

The House of Representatives has passed the measure and Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) on May 18 announced a bipartisan agreement on comprehensive legislation that would deliver Department of Veterans Affairs health care and benefits to all generations of toxic-exposed veterans.

The compromise must pass a floor vote in the Senate before it can head back to the House for final approval.

At 2:22 p.m. in RFK Lot 8, participants will attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest number of people doing pushups together. Led by AMVETS Past National Commander Jim Pidgeon, participants will do 22 pushups in honor of the 22 service members and veterans who die daily by suicide.

“If we go over 1,700 [participants], we’ve broke it,” said Heun of the record. “We want to have at least 2,200.”

On Sunday, the demonstration ride begins at noon from RFK. The stadium’s gates open at 7 a.m. for riders. Heun said 70,000 to 75,000 riders are expected for the event.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.