Memorial Day, held on May 25 this year, affords all Americans an annual opportunity to pay respects to our military men and women. The very next week, “American Veterans Traveling Tribute,” held at Stewart International Airport from June 4-7, reminds us that their sacrifices deserve public recognition regardless of the date on the calendar.
The Orange County chapter of Rolling Thunder, a national veterans organization, is hosting the tribute. Its centerpiece will be the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall, a scaled-down replica of the monument in Washington. At 370 feet long and eight feet high, the wall is four-fifths the size of the actual memorial, but contains each and every one of its 58,000-plus names. On Thursday the 4th, a parade of motorcyclists from Rolling Thunder will escort the wall from Matamoras, Pennsylvania to the New Windsor airport, where an opening ceremony takes place at 3 p.m.
Activities on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday take place from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. They include remembrance ceremonies held throughout the day; displays dedicated to World War II, Korea, September 11th, and other conflicts; and a reading of the names of the 4,000-plus New Yorkers killed in Vietnam (a third of the names will be read each evening). “It’s veterans that will come up to us a lot and say, ‘Thanks so much for remembering us and making all veterans look good,’ ” says Dave Hansen, president of the Rolling Thunder group and a former Marine himself.
The tribute culminates on Sunday with the chapter’s 10th annual “Salute to Veterans” motorcycle ride through West Point, which also includes a memorial service in Highland Falls and food, music, and a military-vehicle aircraft display back at Stewart.