When scores of motorcyclists depart the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago about 11 a.m. Sept. 16, they hope to raise more than a few bucks for a good cause.
They also hope to spark the consciences of everyone they pass – 3-foot-by-5-foot prisoners of war and missing in action flags fluttering – along their 1½-hour, 42-mile ride from North Chicago to the Woodstock Harley-Davidson dealership.
“This is an awareness ride,” said U.S. Army retired Col. Wayne Kirkpatrick of Algonquin. “If we can get one little 10-year-old kid to ask his dad, ‘What are those black flags?’ and Dad has to explain it, then we’ve done our job.”
Kirkpatrick is one of about 50 members of Rolling Thunder Illinois Chapter 2, and he serves as ride captain for the “Never Forget” Thunder Run. This year will mark the 16th annual event, which is only one of the club’s many efforts to draw continued attention to the plight of tens of thousands of military families still yearning for closure.
“We want the public to know we still have over 80,000 missing and unaccounted for Americans from all wars dating back to World War I,” said Kirkpatrick, who served in Vietnam and other conflicts.
The police-escorted ride is open to anyone on a motorcycle or in a car. Registration is ongoing at eventbrite.com. Participants also can register from 9 to 10:30 a.m. the day of the ride at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center at 3001 Green Bay Road. The ride fee is $20 a participant, plus $5 a passenger. The Wind Gypsies will perform at Woodstock Harley-Davidson at the ride’s conclusion.
Rolling Thunder, which has about 100 chapters nationwide and three in Illinois, conducts rides and other activities, such as table ceremonies and chair of honor dedications, so that those who are lost will not be forgotten.
The Sept. 16 ride will take place in rain or shine, and will pass through the communities of Green Oaks, Fremont Center, Volo, McHenry and Ridgefield en route from North Chicago to 2235 S. Eastwood Drive in Woodstock.
The Rolling Thunder chapter’s newest member, soon-to-be McHenry resident John Cummings, is among about 200 motorcyclists expected to attend. Cummings and his wife, Melissa, are the parents of Marine Cpl. Ryan Cummings, who died in combat in June 2006 in Iraq. He was 22.
John and Melissa Cummings first met members of Rolling Thunder when chapter members attended a 10-year memorial event for their son at Woodstock Harley-Davidson in 2016.
“This is just a great bunch of men and women,” John Cummings said. “I went as a guest on the Washington, D.C., run over Memorial Day weekend. It was quite a thing.”
For information, visit www.rollingthunderil2.org.