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Rumsfeld Thanks Rolling Thunder for Support of Vets, Troops

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2005 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld thanked the thousands of riders in the 18th annual Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom for their support of veterans issues and of today's troops.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld speaks of the importance of remembering the military during the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom in Washington, D.C., May 29. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The secretary addressed the crowd on the National Mall May 29.

Hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans and others rode their motorcycles into Washington to bring attention to the prisoner of war/missing in action issue.

Rolling Thunder, Inc., is a non-profit organization that aims to highlight the fact that many American servicemembers from past wars are still unaccounted for. Vietnam veterans Artie Muller and Ray Manzo founded Rolling Thunder in 1987.

"My goodness look at the crowd," Rumsfeld said. "I wish every one of you could stand up here and see what you all look like. You look fantastic!

"To the riders of Rolling Thunder, I want to thank you so very much for what you are doing for the veterans and the country -- patriots all," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld stated that the United States has been blessed because of the countless men and women from every generation who have stepped forward to defend freedom.

"Many of those patriots are here today. Some did not return home. The members of Rolling Thunder have not forgotten a single one of them," he said.

He thanked the members of the organization for what they have done for America's veterans, including donating money to the families of veterans. He also thanked them for volunteering their time and for speaking to America's youth regarding the high price of freedom.

"But particularly I want to thank you for your support of the men and women in uniform who are fighting today on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq and other troubled spots around the globe," Rumsfeld said. "They are serving with great courage, skill, with confidence and professionalism, and they are doing truly noble work for our country."

He noted that today's armed forces have toppled two tyrannies and liberated 50 million people. "They are making our country safer and the world more free," he added.

Rumsfeld also spoke about how much the world has changed in the 18 years since Rolling Thunder began.

"Since the first Rolling Thunder in 1987 the world has been transformed. It's a world that has been transformed by the same freedoms for which you ride today," he said.

He noted that the late 1980s was a time of oppression and tyranny, in which entire families died trying to escape communism.

"And the dictator in Iraq was gassing the Iraqi people, killing tens of thousands, and piling them in mass graves that the free Iraqi people are finding today. Today Saddam Hussein is in prison, and the Berlin wall is in pieces," he said.

"The Afghan people are free and building a proud new country, having elected the first popularly elected president in 5000 years of its history," he continued.

Rumsfeld added that since Rolling Thunder was founded the number of free countries in the world has almost doubled.

"Victory wasn't always fast, and it wasn't ever easy," he said. "As has been said about the price of freedom: no price that's ever been asked for it is half the cost of being without it."

"You're here today because you know the price of freedom, and I thank you for your commitment to that cause. And I thank the millions who fought for that cause by your sides. We will never forget them," he said.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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Rolling Thunder Ride Focuses on POW/MIA Cause
Riders Gather for Rolling Thunder Tribute to Veterans

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