Thursday, June 22, 2006
Local couple celebrates Memorial Day in Washington, D.C.
Danny Tate of Potts Camp is a veteran who spent 17-1/2 months in Vietnam. He and his wife, Linda, rode their Goldwing motorcycle to Washington and were among the 600,000 Vietnam veterans in Washington, D.C. to observe Memorial Day.
Each year hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans make the trek to D.C. from all over the United States on their motorcycles to pay their respect to the 58,215 military personnel whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Wall.
The names appear right to left in single rows in the order of reported death from the first man killed to the last man to die. People visiting the Wall leave all sorts of trinkets and visuals and even photos of the children and grandchildren of those named on the Wall.
Nothing is ever thrown away. It’s all picked up and carefully stowed away in a warehouse for safekeeping.
Each year on Sunday morning, the bikers begin to gather even before dawn. For the next six to seven hours, the motorcycles gather in an orderly fashion in the north parking lot of the Pentagon. Then at 12 noon it starts.
The event has been dubbed Rolling Thunder because that’s what it sounds like as the Harleys and their loud pipes cross the Memorial bridge at the back of the Lincoln Monument, hang a left and then a right up Constitution Ave. past the Wall all the way up to Pennsylvania Ave. and a half right and across the Mall between the Capitol building and the Washington Monument to Independence Ave., turn right, down past several buildings belonging to the Smithsonian including the Air and Space Museum, past the Jefferson Monument and then they begin to break up and gather round the Wall and Reflection Pool, and monuments dedicated to the nurses who saw action in the country. The bikes were still leaving the parking lot at 7:30.
The event is not only to honor the dead, but to raise awareness to the POWs and MIAs still not accounted for so that they will never be forgotten.
This was Danny’s sixth trip. He and his wife, Linda, said, “You can’t help but be touched by the outpouring and enthusiasm and emotions and patriotism of the people in the tens of thousands that lined the route, waving flags and cheering God bless you and welcome home as we rode past, even the small children who would hold their hands to slap five as we rode by.
“Believe me the tears were rolling down my cheeks and there was a lump in my throat that made it hard to swallow even after six trips.”
He said, “We took our time coming home; we rode the back roads of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee stopping in Pal Mal, Tenn., to see the home and grave of Sgt. Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of World War I.
“The home is open to the public as part of the U.S. Park Service, no admission. One of Sgt. York’s sons is the caretaker and guide.
“While we were there, my wife, Linda, was awarded a very special privilege by Mr. York, in that she was allowed to play the piano belonging to Sgt. York’s wife, Grace, even though the sign said do not touch,” Danny said.
Danny and Linda spent the last night of the trip at his cousin’s home in Nashville and then next morning on to their house.
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