Visiting the wall: Four area vets join Rolling Thunder protest and rally in D.C.
Spending Memorial Day visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. — and knowing people whose names are etched into the wall — can evoke many emotions for the men and women who served during that tragic conflict.
For Tom Scearcy of Alexandria, it brought back vivid memories.
When he was originally asked what it meant to him to visit the wall on Memorial Day, Scearcy said it was good but didn't provide much more than that.
In a later email to the newspaper, however, Scearcy explained that he had trouble answering the question because he knew he would become emotional.
"I'm sending the photo we took at the wall pointing at their names," he wrote. "I was sent to the morgue to identify their bodies because I was the oldest, at 22. It was 50 years ago on the 31st of May. Very vivid memories of that day."
The 72-year-old, who served in the United States Marines during the Vietnam War, took a photo at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of the names of the Marine buddies he identified after they were killed during the war. That is the photo he was talking about in his email.
Scearcy, along with three friends who also served during the Vietnam War, rode motorcycles to the nation's Capitol over Memorial Day as part of the Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run. The four men didn't participate in the run itself, but were there to watch it and support the effort.
Riding with Scearcy to the Capitol were Steve Carlson of Frazee, Merl King of Evansville, and Gary Modlin of Lowry. Carlson served in the Air Force and King and Modlin both served in the Army. The four veterans are all members of the Alexandria chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Nearly one million riders took part in the rally, according to Carlson, who added that not all riders were military people but were people with "patriotic souls."
Carlson called the whole experience jaw-dropping and said that even though there was a lot of hoopla and hype because it was Memorial Day weekend, it was "so worth it."
While in D.C., the four veterans did plenty of sightseeing. However, their visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was probably the highlight.
"Fifty years ago I was in Vietnam, so for me it was significant," said Carlson, 68, who is formerly from Garfield. "I have a personal connection because I know seven people whose names are on the wall."
While the four veterans were visiting the memorial wall, hundreds of students on field trips were also there, so it wasn't as solemn or quiet as they would have liked. However, the men were impressed by the number of students who walked up to them and thanked them for their service. Each of the men wore a hat signifying they were in the military and were Vietnam veterans.
King, 66, said it was "pretty neat" being at the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Memorial Day and called it a special day.
"I know four of the names on the wall," said King. "It was good to see this tribute."
The men all said that if people have an opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., they should make sure to check out the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They all said it was pretty impressive and were thankful to be able to visit it with other Vietnam veterans.
The Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run is an annual protest and gathering that first started in 1988. Motorcycle riders from around the nation, and even around the world, rally in the Pentagon parking lots and then begin riding a designated route through the National Mall area of Washington, D.C.
Event organizers seek to bring awareness and accountability for prisoners of war and those missing in action who were left behind.
Participants in the 31st annual First Amendment Demonstration Run heard from speakers at the Lincoln Memorial, and festivities continued through the afternoon hours. A concert took place at the U.S. Capitol in the evening.
For more information, visit the Rolling Thunder website at https://www.rollingthunderrun.com/.