Rolling Thunder to Oppose Fonda and the Anti-War Protesters
By C.J. Raven
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
February 28, 2007
The roar of motorcycles will be absent, but the men and women who ride them will be there in force.
Rolling Thunder, the national organization dedicated to supporting veterans and their issues, will be standing guard against anti-war protesters led by Cindy Sheehan and Jane Fonda in Washington, D.C. on March 17.
Rolling Thunder has more than 80 chapters throughout the United States and abroad. Members are military veterans from all wars and peace-time, as well as non-military men and women who have the time and willingness to be advocates for American troops, veterans, and POW/MIAs.
"Our members will be there to protect the Wall, support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and preserve the honor of those whose names are on the Wall and are honored at the other memorials," said Art Foss, Rolling Thunder's contact at the Wall.
Veterans fear the protesters will attempt to damage or deface the Vietnam War Memorial. The same protesters sprayed red paint on the Capital steps during an anti-war demonstration in January.
"We won't tolerate any destruction," said retired Air Force Col. Harry Riley. "We believe they will try to damage the wall because of their past history. We're not for a confrontation but we will be there to guard. The National Park Police will take aggressive against any attempt to damage the Wall. Still, we need to be there. It's time to fish or cut bait time. We can't allow an environment to continue that basically destroys our troops' morale."
Riley is the organizer of Gathering of Eagles, another group of veterans who also plan to be in Washington when Fonda leads her protest. Rolling Thunder is not part
of Riley's group, but their mission is the similar.
Foss was stationed at the Pentagon in Washington when Fonda led the now-infamous 1967 anti-Vietnam War march, during which police arrested hundreds of Fonda followers. It was about that time that the Hollywood celebrity earned the name of "Hanoi Jane." Her latest protests against U.S. troops in the Middle East have resulted in a new name: "Jihad Jane."
"This march has the same mentality and philosophy as the one back then," Foss, a decorated Marine veteran, said. "In '67, we didn't have an opposing force down there. We were all in Vietnam, or in the military stationed somewhere, when they came to Washington. They didn't have any resistance. Now, things are difference. Vietnam veterans are not about to sit back and let somebody damage any part or anything on that Wall. It's fine to have an opinion, but you can voice it without dishonoring our dead veterans -- the ones who saved your rights and privileges for what you're doing right now."
Rolling Thunder members won't attempt to prevent visitors from going to the Wall. They will react, however, to anyone carrying a can of spray paint or other item that could be used to deface the memorial.
Space around the Wall is limited and only a small percentage of the defenders will be able to guard it. Foss said police are unlikely to allow five or six organizations to be at the Wall. Protesters plan to walk past the memorial and down Henry Bacon Drive on their way to the Pentagon.
"I'm assuming that the mounted police will be up and down Henry Bacon Drive," Foss said. "The media and the camera people will be there. I'm envisioning Henry Bacon Drive being like a demarcation line. It will be interesting, to say the least."
Rolling Thunder members in the Wall's "no politics" zone will face the memorial.
Those who can't fit into that area will stand along Henry Bacon Dr. facing the
street and the protesters as they march by. Only a small space will physically separate the two groups. That proximity could result in protesters and Rolling Thunder members clashing.
"It's going to be sticky," Foss said. "We're not going there looking for trouble. We're going to protect the memorials, and the Wall, from anybody trying to desecrate it. We will keep the honor intact for all those that the memorials stand for."
And while Rolling Thunder members won't be "looking for trouble," that might be exactly what they find if protesters follow their past practices of goading and taunting veterans. Foss is cautioning members to leave knives, guns or other weapons at home. Anyone who ignores his advice could end up spending time in the Washington, D.C. jail, he said.
A large number of buses carrying Rolling Thunder members from across the country will be converging on Washington for the event. Other members will arrive on motorcycles, in cars, vans and planes. A caravan is driving from California. Still, Foss is reluctant to predict how many will attend.
"It could be 5,000. It could be 50,000," he said. "A lot of people say they're coming but enthusiasm sometimes wanes when the time gets closer."
Many Rolling Thunder members are also members of the VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart and other veteran organizations. The word has spread through those groups, which also expect to be present.
Foss is asking for all interested veterans and concerned citizens to meet and organize at the Lincoln Memorial at 8 a.m. on March 17. He hopes the assembly will be similar to the annual Memorial Day gathering when thousands of Rolling Thunder members appear in Washington.
"We'll have wall-to-wall people in there," he said. "We need to let our troops know we're right here opposing these idiots opposing them."
For more information on Rolling Thunder, visit the organization's Web site at