Biker vets show support for fallen comrades; ride through nation's capital ;

29 May 2002 | Lance Cpl. G. Lane Miley

The 2d Tank Battalion operations chief was among the nearly half-million bikers that poured into the nation's capital over the Memorial Day weekend for the 15th annual "Rolling Thunder."

Master Gunnery Sgt. Frank Cordero and other bikers roared through the district passing the Pentagon, Jefferson Memorial and White House to support those who gave their lives in America's wars.

The 2d Marine Division "leatherneck" said he feels most Americans don't really take time to realize what Memorial Day is all about; they think it's just a three-day weekend in May.

"This is what it's all about, raising awareness," expressed Cordero.

The chief made it clear he loved the event and wouldn't miss it for the world.

"The only way I would is if I was at war, and that's God's work," he said.

The event was a way for the many of the veterans to think back on the good times they shared with their fallen brothers.

Former Marine Combat Photographer Jim F. Colton said it's the memories of those lost that keep him coming back each year.

"It's a good remembrance of the veterans," said the Westminster, Md., native. Colton received the Purple Heart after being shot through the arm and back during Operation Essex, near Anwar, Vietnam.

The event meant different things to each of the attendees. One Air Force veteran said, "The government left 2,000 of our brothers in Vietnam and we're here to remind them of that."

Many of the veterans hoped the rally brought would bring clarity to those who didn't fully understand war.

"In a war situation there's a price to be paid," former Marine and Peabody, Mass. native, Lee Coden explained. "We veterans know there will be losses. It's unrealistic the way civilians think there will be no prisoners of war and no one will be lost or missing in action. This is a great way to memorialize the POWs and MIAs."

Cordero, a member of the Camp Lejeune, N.C.,  area motorcycle club "Leathernecks," said many Marines have only two passions -- being around other Marines and riding motorcycles.

He offered to any Marine or corpsman in good standing with the Corps a chance to ride with and join the club.