Rolling Thunder’s 2008 Ride Home – a multi-day annual activity held in conjunction with the National Park Service’s Andersonville National Historic Site and Georgia Southwestern State University to recognize and honor the nation’s Prisoners of War (POW) and those Missing in Action (MIA) – will be held in Andersonville and Americus, Ga., Sept. 17-20, 2008.
“The 2008 Ride Home, which is supported this year by Rolling Thunder® chapters from 11 states, is part of a series of events conducted jointly with the National Park Service in Andersonville to honor those former POWs from all wars who have returned home and remember those who are still listed as MIA,” said Jim Moyer, Ride Home board chairman.
According to Moyer, more than 1,000 Rolling Thunder members are expected to gather in Andersonville and Americus to honor an estimated 100 former POWs scheduled to attend this year’s program of events as guests of Rolling Thunder.
While Friday, Sept.19, is the official National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the four days of recognition activities begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, with a convocation sponsored by the National Park Service and hosted by Georgia Southwestern State University at the Student Success Center in Americus.
The guest speaker will be Joseph Hudson of Alamogordo, N.M. He was a 23-year-old U.S. Army specialist with the 507th Maintenance Group, Fort Bliss, Tex., who was shot three times, captured and held by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army from March 23, 2003 until April 13, 2003.
On Thursday, Sept. 18, through Saturday, Sept. 20, the Park Service will host Bataan Death March survivor Colonel Glenn Frazier at the National Prisoner of War Museum at the Andersonville National Historic Site. Frazier, who was an underage U.S. Army volunteer from Fort Deposit, Ala., in 1941, will be autographing his book, “Hell’s Guest”, which is his account of three harrowing years as a prisoner of war.
On Friday, Sept. 19, the official National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Rolling Thunder’s formal activities will begin at 10 a.m. with a tribute service, “Keeping the Promise, We Will Not Forget” at the First Baptist Church in Americus.
Scheduled speakers include: U.S. Air Force Major General Albert G. (Jerry) Rogers whose final active duty assignment was Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics at Tactical Air Command Headquarters at Langley, AFB, Va.; U.S. Navy Captain Ronald Harrell, Commander of the FFG (Fast Frigate) Class Squadron 14 at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.; Stephen E. Thompson, Family and Veteran Liaison for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Honolulu, Hawaii; and, Dr./Rev. Chuck Gass, the staff chaplain at the VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Fla.
A Rolling Thunder escort to the tribute service for the former POWs is scheduled to depart for the Baptist church from the Wal-Mart parking lot in Americus at 9 a.m.
At 1 p.m. that afternoon the National Prisoner of War Museum in Andersonville will unveil a commemorative plaque honoring POWs from the U.S. Army’s 42nd “Rainbow” Division.
Formed in August 1917, the “Rainbow” nickname was given to the division after Colonel Douglas MacArthur, the new division's Chief of Staff (and ultimately its commander), remarked that "the 42nd Division stretches like a Rainbow from one end of America to the other" because it was comprised of National Guard units from 26 states and the District of Columbia.
The division, which saw service in both World Wars was deactivated in 1946; however it returned in 1947 as a National Guard Division for New York, the state of its birth. Currently headquartered at the Glenmore Armory in Troy, N.Y., the division includes Army National Guard units from 14 states: Connecticut, Main, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Activities on Friday will continue at 4:30 p.m. with Rolling Thunder’s annual tribute dinner followed by a candlelight remembrance ceremony scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Both activities will be at the Windsor Hotel in Americus.
The Missing Man Table, which honors the nation’s POW/MIAs, will be the focal point of the evening. The single round table with six empty place settings symbolize Americans from each of the five services - - Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard - - and civilians who cannot attend and will be participating in the evening’s activities in spirit only.
On Saturday, Sept. 20, Rolling Thunder’s Annual POW Recognition will begin at 10 a.m. at the Rostrum at Andersonville National Cemetery. The ceremony honors POWs who have returned home from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf wars.
A Rolling Thunder Heroes Escort Ride is scheduled to depart for the Andersonville National Historic Site from the Wal-Mart parking lot in Americus at 9 a.m.
The 1-14th Aviation Regiment from Fort Rucker, Ala., will open the10 a.m. ceremony with a helicopter flyover of an AH-64D Apache Longbow and an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.
A Roll Call of former POWs attending the ceremony will precede a special presentation to each.
Music will be provided by the U.S. Marine Band stationed at the Albany Marine Corps Logistics Base, SSgt Kristine Streng conducting.
Rolling Thunder chapters sponsoring the 2008 Ride Home are located in Melbourne, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Inverness and Sanford, Fla.; Waverly Hall, Ga.; Hartland, Mich.; Oxford, Miss; Neshanic Station, N.J.; Newburgh, N.Y.; Statesville, Fayetteville, Franklinton, Wilmington, Morrisville and Jacksonville, N.C.; Cleveland, Ohio; Coweta, Okla.; Cheltenham, Penn; Shelby and North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The national organization, Rolling Thunder, Inc. was organized in 1987 to raise awareness of POW, MIA and Veterans rights issues. It is known for its annual demonstration “Ride For Freedom” in Washington, D.C. during Memorial Day weekend.
For more information visit both www.POWRideHome.org and www.nps.gov/ande/planyourvisit/things2do.htm
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