Bristol veteran joins Rolling Thunder ride and rally

By Manuel C. "Manny" Correira
Posted 6/7/19

“The Great Patriots of Rolling Thunder WILL be coming back to Washington, D.C. next year, & hopefully for many years to come. It is where they want to be, & where they should …

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Bristol veteran joins Rolling Thunder ride and rally

Posted

“The Great Patriots of Rolling Thunder WILL be coming back to Washington, D.C. next year, & hopefully for many years to come. It is where they want to be, & where they should be.”— President Donald J. Trump, per his Twitter account.

With so much uncertainty about the Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride through the Washington, D.C., area next year, local rider and veteran Paul S. Mello has his fingers crossed that one of the world’s biggest and most renowned motorcycle events will once again be held the Sunday before Memorial Day in 2020.

This is what the Washington Post had to say about all of this:

Every year since 1988, riders have roared into the District for Rolling Thunder, a demonstration in support of veterans, prisoners of war and service members who went missing in action. But this year, the organization’s leader, Artie Muller, had announced that the financial and logistical burden of making the rally happen had become too much; after 2019, the event in the nation’s capital would be no more.”

“The news inspired hundreds of thousands of bikers, possibly a record number, to flock to the Pentagon parking lot Sunday morning, ready for their final ride into the city and around the Mall. And then word started spreading: President Trump had just tweeted that Rolling Thunder was not going to end after all.”

For Paul Mello, a motorcycle enthusiast for many years now, the return to the Nation’s Capital Memorial Day weekend will be a welcomed sight next year… if things can be ironed out.

“Everything is up in the air right now,” said Mr. Mello, who will turn 55 in August. “This is such a great event. This was my first time as a participant in the Rolling Thunder. I’d love to do it again.”

A 25-year employee with the Bristol Dept. of Public Works, Mr. Mello, a native Bristolian, has owned a motorcycle for 35 years, starting with a Honda 750 Night Hawk, and now a Victory Jackpot since 2007. But in all the years he’s ridden, the Rolling Thunder scene was something he never imagined.

As a member of the U.S. Veterans Bristol County Motorcycle Club and a veteran of the Rhode Island National Guard, Mr. Mello’s initial ride to Washington. D.C. was a storybook journey.

“I was truly excited about going,” he said. “I’m not sure if anyone else from Bristol made the trip, but I know I was proud to be part of the Rolling Thunder this year.”

It was a tedious journey.

Mr. Mello left Thursday, May 23, at midnight in a trailer for the seven-hour trip to Washington, D.C. Also making the trip was good friend Anthony J. Abatecola of East Providence, vice president of the U.S. Veterans Motorcycle Club (a national club) out of Bristol County, Mass. Together, they had plenty to talk about when they got home after the Rolling Thunder Ride on May 26.

“The four area parking lots were filled with motorcycles, and the event attracted between 1.4 and 1.7 million bikers,” said Mr. Mello. “We traveled past all the national monuments and finished up past the Capitol building.”

Tony Abatecola, who is also a proud member of the 88th Army Band, who will be appearing here in town June 20 to kick off the Bristol Fourth of July Concert Series, was equally impressed.

“Rolling Thunder was such a great event,” he said. “And it was peaceful throughout.”

Every year, hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists converge near the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and then rumble through the city’s downtown.

By definition, Rolling Thunder is a United States advocacy group “that seeks to bring full accountability for prisoners of war (POWs) and missing in action (MIA) service members of all U.S. wars. The group’s first demonstration was in 1988. It was incorporated in 1995, and has more than 90 chapters throughout the U.S., as well as overseas.”

Their main annual event occurs on the Sunday before Memorial Day, in which members make a slow motorcycle ride, called the “First Amendment Demonstration Run” or “Ride for Freedom,” on a dedicated, closed-off, pre-set route through Washington, D.C., leaving the Pentagon parking lot at noon, crossing the Memorial Bridge, and ending at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (“the Wall”).

“It’s a sight to behold,” said Paul Mello. “I’d do it again. It’s was a privilege to be part of all of this.”

Paul and his wife, Carol, are the proud parents of a daughter, Brianna, 16, and grandparents of Avah, 8, and Jocelyn, 5.

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

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