Rolling Thunder in Highland Falls (after action report)

We were invited to participate on Sunday in the Highland Falls memorial portion of the Rolling Thunder ‘Salute to Veterans’ Ride. Mayor Joe D’Onofrio requested our presence to set up our flags as a backdrop to the solemn laying of a wreath to the veterans of all wars. We performed the mission without a hitch.

Arriving early we had plenty of time to lay out a plethora of flags. We arranged two complete sets of service flags as well as unit flags for the 101st Airborne and 7th Army. POW/MIA, Naval Jacks, Gadsden Flags, Support Our Troops, We served with Honor, Lest They be Forgotten, Patriot Guard Riders, Gathering of Eagles and, of course, the Stars and Stripes. The heat and humidity was offset by the number of willing hands who helped pound steel rebar into the rocky ground to provide mounts for the display.

After that work was done we had plenty of time to chat with Mayor Joe and the many citizens who came out for the ceremony while we awaited word of the progress of the ride. We congregated in the shade and sipped water from bottles as we listened to reports that the riders were all having their photo ID’s checked at the Washington Gate of West Point prior to being allowed to ride through to the Thayer Gate and into Highland Falls.

Finally a rising tide of noise could be heard coming down Main Street, the volume increasing as the riders approached until it became that Rolling Thunder that so aptly defines their presence and impact. Group after group came down the road and halted until the street was filled curb to curb with motorcycles as far as the eye could see. For those of us who have never had the honor of attending the annual ride in Washington, DC, this is about as good as it gets!

The park began to fill with the riders and their passengers as the color guard and bagpipers led the way.

Mayor Joe managed the ceremonies with aplomb, marshaling speakers, handling minor technical glitches and making everyone of the 1500 guests feel right at home. He did the honor of introducing the Gathering of Eagles and myself, Carolyn Van Zorge and our County coordinators that were present. Among the speakers were Ron Orts, President of Rolling Thunder NY Chapter 3, the ride sponsors, Gary Scheffmeyer, President of Rolling Thunder National, The State Senator and Representative for that district and a lovely lady who served as a nurse in Vietnam. I should have taken notes of the names, but I was having such a good time that I literally forgot all about writing anything down.

Two young veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project displayed the humor and courage that will enable them to succeed and overcome their wounds.

As the ceremony drew to a close, the Mayor, Ron Orts, the Nurse and a Purple Heart recipient placed the wreath in front of the Memorial to those who served in all wars from Highland Falls. Rifles cracked out a twenty one gun salute and people felt free to start chatting among themselves. I took opportunities before and after the ceremonies to present Ron Orts, Gary Scheffmeyer and Mayor Joe D’Onofrio with Gathering of Eagles bike flags in gratitude from all of us at GOE for what they do for our veterans.

We stood with the citizens of Highland Falls and cheered, clapped and gave thumbs up and high fives to the riders as they continued on their ride which would eventually take them back to Stewart Airport and the expo and party they had arranged there.

As quiet once again settled over Highland Falls we quickly disassembled our flag display and retired to a local restaurant for some much needed air conditioning, adult beverages and delicious food with Mayor Joe.

Today was a rousing success for us in several respects. We performed our part in the ceremony flawlessly. We were introduced to a large contingent of folks who may have participated in GOE I but then never really met any of us after that. We got exposure in the local media and we had a great time doing it all. I expect our participation in the Fourth of July parade will further cement our ties with the people of Highland Falls and I am certain that they will look forward to our return for the West Point Graduation in 2009!

For Pamela’s photos go here and here.
For my pictures go here.
For Pamela’s videos go here and here.

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