America Supports You: Rolling Thunder to Hold Baseball Fundraiser
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 2, 2006 This summer, one chapter of the famous "Rolling Thunder" protest movement will take their message out to the ballgame.
Rolling Thunder members from New York Chapter 3 march in the Hudson Valley St. Patrick's Day parade March 5. From left, Sue Orts, Chapter Board Chairman Bill Palmer, Secretary Mary Lewis, Treasurer Tony Hilinski, President Ron Orts, and Dave Hansen. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Paul Schneeberger, the event's coordinator, and other volunteers with Rolling Thunder's New York Chapter 3, will hold a military appreciation night at Dutchess Stadium, in Hudson Valley, N.Y., July 1.
"The whole idea of this thing is to get it out into the general public for those people who put those nice little magnets on their cars and say they support the troops to actually put some money in the pot to give to a vet," Schneeberger said.
Rolling Thunder began in 1987 with 2,600 demonstrators in Washington, D.C., in an effort to keep the government mindful of its troops who are still missing in action (MIA). The demonstration has grown into a grassroots movement involving hundreds of thousands of volunteers running outreach programs in chapters across the country.
The group will sell t-shirts at booths throughout the stadium, and it will take 20 to 30 military helmets to pass around to the crowd for donations to troops in need. "We're literally going to pass the hat," Schneeberger said. "This way, we might be able to raise more funds from the community for the veterans in our area."
A ceremony before the game will include 40 prisoners of war from World War II, who will present the stadium with a POW/MIA flag, Schneeberger said. Civil War and Revolutionary War reenactors may participate in the ceremony as well, and Rolling Thunder will bring its motorcycles onto the warning track.
The group is waiting for approval from Dutchess County to let the 2nd Aviation Detachment, from West Point, N.Y., do a flyover. The detachment is the aviation training division for the United States Military Academy and provides helicopters and small planes for cadets to practice parachute jumping, fast roping and other military insertion and extraction techniques.
Support from Croton Dodge car dealership in the village of Croton-on-Hudson made it possible, Schneeberger said. The general manager there, Frank Endress, is a Vietnam veteran and an active troop supporter.
Schneeberger said he and the rest of his Rolling Thunder chapter look forward to fostering more events like this to augment their annual trip to Washington, D.C., where they usually make most of their money, much of which goes toward long-term help for veterans.
"You can support the troops in the heat of the moment, but this war will go on for 50 years for these kids, whether they're physically injured or whether they have (post-traumatic stress disorder) or whatever it is that affects them," he said.
The chapter's 66 volunteers are working on various projects to help disabled veterans have a better quality of life, including visits to local veterans' hospitals and building ramps for those at home in wheelchairs.
But, Schneeberger said, the group's main mission will always be keeping the country aware of the POW/MIA issue. A massive ride every year on Memorial Day weekend through the nation's capital is the cornerstone of their movement.
Rolling Thunder will gather at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here May 26, for a candlelight vigil to begin this year's Memorial Day weekend activities. On May 28, the group will gather in the Pentagon's north parking lot for "Ride for Freedom XIX."