Members of the area’s new Rolling Thunder chapter don’t want to alarm anyone when they hit the streets.
“We’re not a motorcycle gang and we’re not a motorcycle club,” explained Daren Bowen, vice president of the group. “We support POW, MIA and veterans’ causes. When people see us coming down the road, we want them to know what we’re about.”
Bowen, a National Guard recruiter, said he’s been involved with a Rolling Thunder chapter in Glasgow and, after seeing the influence the group had on that community, “I wanted that same impact in my own community.”
While most Rolling Thunder members ride motorcycles and many are veterans, neither is required for membership.
“You just have to support the cause,” Bowen said.
The Rolling Thunder Chapter 3 in Bowling Green got its charter in January and Bowen said it has about 35 members.
“Now that we’ve got it going, we really want to get the word out,” Bowen said. “We’re just excited about the opportunity that’s here in Bowling Green.”
Rolling Thunder is a national organization with more than 88 chapters across the United States. The nonprofit organization began in 1987 when two Vietnam War veterans in New Jersey met to discuss their concerns about unresolved prisoner-of-war and missing-in-action cases. They were troubled by the lack of attention given to the soldiers whose fate was unknown.
The men organized a gathering in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day weekend in 1998, and about 2,500 motorcycles converged on the Capitol that year. The event is now known as the Ride for Freedom and has grown to an estimated 900,000 participants. While the Ride for Freedom is Rolling Thunder’s biggest national event, chapters throughout the country work to be a positive force in their communities throughout the year.
“Rolling Thunder does so much,” Bowen said, describing how the Glasgow chapter recently bought materials and built a ramp for a handicapped veteran there and how members take gifts to hospitalized children. The chapter hosts fundraisers such as rides and chili suppers. All money raised goes to help veterans.
Doug Medlock, chapter secretary, said he hopes the group can offer support to local veterans.
“It lets them know that there’s a group of people out there who really care about their issues,” Medlock said.
Art White of Bowling Green is not a veteran but is a member of the new Rolling Thunder chapter.
“I want to support our veterans,” White said. “I hope it improves some of the veterans’ lives.”
For Todd Partain, who is a veteran, the Rolling Thunder organization is a great way to combine two things he loves: the military and motorcycles.
“It’s an awesome cause to be riding and standing for,” Partain said.
Bowen said anyone who is interested is welcome to come by for a meeting or to call him. Organizers are looking forward to growing the chapter and inviting veterans, non-veterans, men, women, couples and people all ages to join them.
“It’s really a great organization,” Partain said. “Hopefully, we’ll get rolling and do a lot for our community.”
—The new Bowling Green chapter meets the fourth Sunday of every month at 5 p.m. at the National Guard Armory at 920 Morgantown Road. For more information, call Bowen at 270-303-2912.