WASHINGTON — As hundreds of veterans on motorcycles crossed Memorial Bridge into Washington on Sunday, they filled a sunny, serene day with 90 minutes of uninterrupted thunder.
For the sixth year in a row the men, mostly Vietnam veterans, rallied on the Mall for the Americans still missing from all the wars and gave themselves the parade the country denied them.
Crowds saluted the solemn-faced veterans by thrusting clenched fists in the air or reaching out to slap hands as bikers slowed to maneuver curves. U.S. Park Police estimated the number of rally participants at 35,000.
Sporting road names like "Filthy" and "Gator," the bikers included representatives from every state and other countries that sent soldiers to Southeast Asia, including Canada and Australia.
Many of the veterans--now engineers, truck drivers and police officers--stressed that they want an accounting for the 2,260 Americans still missing from the Vietnam War. "I want some kind of amends made," said Phil Gillette, 54. "I still got hope, but I haven't seen much action. Sometimes I think they wish we were all dead."
Sunday, as the bikers ended their rally, many of them prepared to find the names of their neighborhood playmates, high school buddies, relatives and platoon friends on the wall. One man's dark glasses could not shield the tears that rolled down his cheeks.