top of page
  • Writer's pictureKathy Winkler Studio

A Tribute to Vietnam War Veterans - Rolling Thunder

I painted Rolling Thunder as a tribute to my brother, who rode in the annual motorcycle rally that was held in Washington, D.C., during the Memorial Day weekend five years ago (2014). The ride has been a call for the government’s recognition and protection of Prisoners of War (POWs) and those Missing in Action (MIAs), and to account for all POW/MIA’s - hence, the annual ride.

The Vietnam War was a very difficult time in America’s history because the U.S. was divided over issues of peace and war, and veterans returning from the Vietnam War were treated, not as heroes of previous wars, but more like traitors by anti-war demonstrators. In 1988 (23 years after the end of the war), veterans of the Vietnam War rallied together with their families, fellow veterans, and veterans’ advocate groups to organize a demonstration at the Capital Building in D.C., over Memorial Day weekend. Their arrival in D.C. was announced with the roar of their Harley-Davidsons, a sound that was not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam named Operation Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder began as a demonstration to show support for Vietnam era military veterans.

My brother rode his Harley-Davidson with a motorcycle group he rides with for veteran’s memorial services, parades, etc. They came from Houston to Washington, D.C., which is a 1756 mile trip, one way. Participants have come from all over the U.S. to participate in this incredible experience. When this tribute to American war heroes started in 1988, there were approximately 2,500 participants. When My brother participated, there were a million participants. Rolling Thunder has been one of the most patriotic events to be held in the nation’s capital. 2019 was the last year for the Rolling Thunder organization to sponsor the ride, but AMVETS is taking over sponsorship for 2020.

I really loved painting the portrayal of a biker on his/her bike, waiting to participate in Rolling Thunder. Although that is my brother astride his bike, I was touched by the original photograph and how it reflected that it could be anybody on a bike, waiting to pay tribute to the fallen. Images of this painting are sold at


bottom of page