President Donald Trump on Sunday declared that the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle run in Washington during Memorial Day weekend ― slated to end after this year ― will continue after all in the nation’s capital, but the event’s founder and executive director apparently didn’t get the memo.
Retired Army Sgt. Artie Muller, who has overseen the gathering of cyclists that aims to raise awareness about veterans and veteran-related issues, reacted with bewilderment upon learning of the pronouncement on Twiter by Trump, who is in Japan.
Muller has been saying that this Sunday’s ride that begins at the Pentagon and ends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial would be the last such gathering because of escalating costs. He also has complained about a lack of cooperation from officials in planning the ride, which began in 1988 and grew to become a major spectacle.
“We feel we can spend our money more wisely by helping more vets and our troops and their families than spending it” in Washington, he said in a C-Span interview. “The increase in everything every year is entirely too much.”
He also has said that in 2020, the group’s chapters would focus on commemorations in their own states.
Just minutes later, however, he was informed of Trump’s message that Washington would continue to play host to the ride.
“The Great Patriots of Rolling Thunder WILL be coming back to Washington, D.C. next year, & hopefully for many years to come,” the president tweeted. “It is where they want to be, & where they should be … Thank you to our great men & women of the Pentagon for working it out!”
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Muller, reacting on C-Span, expressed surprise and doubt.
“I know he means well but I don’t know what the story is with they’re ‘working it out with us’ because there will have to be a lot of discussions and a lot of changes for everybody that comes here and our organizations that help put this together,” he said.
The plans for smaller rides spread across the U.S. would ideally save money, give more people an opportunity to participate and potentially create a larger political impact, the group’s leaders have said.
“None of the politicians are in town this weekend, so what better way to expand your impact than to… bring these to your hometowns,” Army veteran and Rolling Thunder national border member Mike Wolff told NPR.
A major reason for the start of the motorcycle run was to bring public attention to prisoners of war and those missing in action. The organization tallies more than 82,000 service members unaccounted for from various wars and other military actions.