We should remember our veterans all year

Published 4:00 am Friday, May 28, 2021

Michael Rollins is a Navy veteran who served his country in the Vietnam War.

I met him and several other vets as they were taking a break at the Vicksburg National Military Park while on their motorcycle run to Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day weekend.

Rollins and his friends have been participants in the annual “Run for the Wall,” a program involving thousands of veterans who each May ride their motorcycles cross country to Washington in time to observe the Memorial Day weekend and visit the Vietnam Memorial.

Begun in 1989, the ride was initially designed to honor those who died in Vietnam but has since been devoted to honoring all veterans. It’s a major event with riders starting their trips in different areas of the country and following one of three routes to reach the nation’s capital.

People turn out to cheer the bikers as they travel through small towns or along the Interstate highway system and I’ve had the opportunity over the years to photograph the bikers as they head east along Interstate 20. It’s an impressive sight, that long line of motorcycles moving down the highway with their presence announced by the roar of the bikes’ engines.

But last year, the run didn’t happen. The reason was COVID-19, which stopped the run like it did everything else in 2020. COVID has stopped this year’s run, too, and that’s what makes Mike’s and his buddies’ run this year so special — they’re doing it on their own. They decided that COVID or not, they were going to make the run. That says a lot for the respect these men have for their fallen comrades. The numbers may not be there, Mike said, but they will honor their missing comrades all the same.

And with Memorial Day coming Monday, we need to think about these riders who stopped in our town on their way to honor others and we need to follow their example.

We need to take some time this weekend and remember those men and women who served our country, whether they died in combat or died peacefully in their beds and we need to honor those servicemen and women who are still living. These are people who are dedicated to defending their country. They are willing to lay their lives on the line to protect our country and us.

I’ve written before that I observe Memorial Day every day, because of the ring I wear honoring my father. But I also honor my two uncles who served, and those men and women I’ve met over the years covering the Navy in Meridian and the Navy and the Coast Guard on the Gulf Coast.

This weekend, if you see a veteran, give them a wave, a smile and a thank you. And if you meet a World War II veteran, take time to talk with him or her and give them a special thank you.

Mike Rollins and his buddies are special people for what they’re doing this year. All veterans, living and dead are special. We should remember that daily.


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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