Why I'm riding in Rolling Thunder

Jake Hughes
May 24, 2018 - 1:37 pm

(Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

Categories: 

Let me tell you a story.

The year was 1993. I was a young fourth grader at Lyons Elementary School in Missouri City, TX, just ten miles south of Houston proper. School had just let out, and all the kids were lined up outside, ready to be picked up. Everyone was cheerful and happy to be out of school.

But not me. I was despondent. See, my dad had promised he’d pick me up, but after 10 minutes of waiting, an eternity for an eight year old, I hadn’t seen or heard him. I figured that meant my mom was picking me up. I was sad, upset, and unable to be cheered up by the teachers watching us.

Then, I heard the rumble, the roar of a V-twin engine tearing down the road. I looked out at the street, and saw an absolute beast coming up to the drive. My dad had come through! See, it wasn’t so much that I preferred my dad over my mom, but mom would have picked me up in her little Chevy Lumina. Not really a little car, but nothing compared to my dad’s vehicle: a 1991 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy.

From a young age, it was seared in my mind that motorcycles were awesome. It wasn’t even an opinion: motorcycles were cool, and that’s that. My dad always had motorcycle magazines laying around the house, some I really shouldn’t have been reading due to the, um, sometimes-but-not-always-clad women in them. My dad loved motorcycles, and I absorbed that love. I remember when he was finally able to afford one, he was so happy. My brother and I used to fight all the time about who got to ride with dad, and who had to drive with mom.

Cut to years later, after I signed my indefinite re-enlistment papers with the Army. I figured that, since I now had a secured job for the next nine years, it was finally time. I went to a local dealership, and paid $2,000 down on my new toy, my “baby:" a 2011 Yamaha V-Star 950. Later on, I would trade that in for a 2015 Yamaha V-Star 1300. Yeah, I know. “Should have bought a real bike!” Well, you keep your Harley, and I’ll keep my $10,000.

That’s the bike I’ll be riding this Sunday at Rolling Thunder. I first heard of the event years ago, and thought it would be cool to attend, but I never could. Even the two years I was stationed at Fort Myer, VA, a stone’s throw from DC, I had to cover it, so I couldn’t ride in it. But now that I’m back in DC, and I have the day off, I’m proud to ride.

People have asked me, “Who are you riding for?” Most people have a person or unit in mind when they attend. I hadn’t thought much about it, honestly. I was originally planning to go just as a “thing to do.” A way to get my lazy butt off the couch and go socialize. But the more I think about it. I do have some people to ride for. Two to be specific:

Specialist Yoe M. Aneiros.

(Image coutresy of Alexa Aneiros)

Yoe was a guy in my first unit who deployed to Iraq with me. I unfortunately can’t claim to know him very well, since I was kind of anti-social back then. But the few times I can remember interacting with him, he was a great guy. Made sure I understood everything he was telling me, took his time with me. I remember when my crew had to use his crew’s tank, he took the time to explain the quirks of the vehicle, and make sure I was set for success. Yoe was killed by an RPG on September 7th, 2004.

Second Lieutenant Wilbur E. Meyer.

(Image courtesy of Jake Hughes)

“Uncle Bill” was actually my dad’s uncle, but we never made the distinction. I remember him as a kind man, gentle and fun to talk to. He was the copilot of a B-17 in World War II. On June 13, 1943, the Helno Gal was shot down behind enemy lines. Uncle Bill spent the next two years in a German POW camp. Sadly, I never really asked for the details of his time in service. Back then, I never thought much about the military. Uncle Bill died on November 18th, 2010.

That’s who I am riding for, Yoe and Uncle Bill. It’s important we honor and remember those who sacrificed so much for us. This Memorial Day, as you’re outside grilling or hanging out at the pool, spend a few moments reflecting on that. It will be on my mind as I ride. I’ll be broadcasting my ride through Facebook Live, so keep an eye on the Connecting Vets Facebook page this coming Sunday.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, and as always, have a blessed day.