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Rolling Thunder
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., Sunday, May 29, 2005

Thank you, MikeDePaulo, and to the riders of Rolling Thunder.  Thank you all so very much for all you do.  I am proud to be here with you – patriots all.

Our country has been so blessed, with generation after generation who have stepped forward to defend our freedom.  Soldiers.  Sailors.  Airmen.  Marines.  Coast Guardsmen.  The thousands of veterans here today.  And their family members, who wait with pride for the loved ones who serve so far away.

A few are famous.  Some complete their missions in secret.  And many are known not by their names, but by the names of their battles, to mention a few:

  • Normandy;
  • Iwo Jima;
  • Inchon;
  • Ia Drang;
  • Desert Storm;
  • Enduring Freedom; and
  • Iraqi Freedom.

Those who served were inspired by love of country, devotion to duty, and the determination to secure for their loved ones a safer world.

Many of those patriots are here today.  But some did not return home.  You -- the members of Rolling Thunder -- have not forgotten a single one of them -- to your great credit -- and to theirs.  And America will never forget them.

And thank you for all you have done to help America’s veterans:

  • Donating tens of thousands of dollars to veterans and their families; 
  • Logging thousands of volunteer hours at VA hospitals; 
  • Speaking to youth groups and schools so that young Americans can learn the price of freedom;
  • And making sure that those missing in action are never forgotten.  And they will not be forgotten.

And I particularly thank you for your support of the men and women fighting on freedom’s frontlines today -- in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in other trouble spots around the world.

With great courage, skill, and confidence, they have:

  • Toppled two tyrannies;
  • Liberated 50 million people;
  • Stood firm in the face of violent extremists; and they are
  • Making our country safer, and the world more free.

Think back to 1987, when I guess that was your the first Rolling Thunder year, the first “Ride For Freedom.”  It’s a world that has since been transformed.  And it’s been transformed by the same freedom for which you ride today.

1987 was:

  • A time when entire families died trying to escape from communism -- across a river in Czech, or over the wall in Berlin or through so many other desperate acts; seeking freedom.
  • It was a time of oppression and tyranny in Lebanon.
  • A time when Soviet troops were the occupying force in Afghanistan; and
  • When 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 awaiting trial.  The Berlin wall is in pieces -- and it's being sold as souvenirs, of a totally discredited era.  The Afghan people are free and building a proud, new country, having elected the first popularly elected president in the 5,000-year history of their country.  And Lebanon is holding free elections.

Since 1987, the number of free countries in the world has almost doubled.  And that, in major part, is because of you and those we honor this weekend.

You along with millions of other veterans and America’s allies, fought to make freedom a reality.  Victory wasn't always fast, and it wasn't ever easy.  But as has been said about the price of freedom, “no price that is 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.

And may God bless you all.  May God bless all those who serve today across the globe.  And may God continue to bless our wonderful country.  Thank you and God bless you all.