VIA| Each year during Memorial Day weekend, nearly one million motorcyclists and spectators participate in the Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” in Washington, D.C. to honor our nation’s fallen and missing heroes — and each year since 2002, one dedicated Marine stands in the middle of the parade to salute the riders.
For the past 16 years, Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers has stood in the middle of 23rd Street near the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Wall where he shows his appreciation to each passing rider, many of whom served in the U.S. Armed Forces themselves.
However, the patriotic demonstration in 2016 was particularly awesome, as Chambers brought along a special guest — his bride.
Chambers and Lorraine Heist exchanged vows and toasted the crowd with cans of Budweiser on Sunday, May 29, 2016 in the Marine’s usual 23rd Street spot just before the annual Rolling Thunder ride commenced, according to The Daily Wire.
The excitement of getting married didn’t stop Chambers from taking on his role as “The Saluting Marine,” and this time, he was joined by his wife who also waved at the passing riders with appreciation for their patriotism.
“For me, this annual POW/MIA demonstration is all about doing what is right for the men and women who were sent to war and never came home and the families left behind,” Chambers wrote in a special piece for the Washington Times. “We owe nothing less than accountability and closure.”
The Marine explained how he “accidentally” found out about the Rolling Thunder in 2001 when he was stationed at the Pentagon and visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial during Memorial Day weekend.
The next year, Chambers returned to the same spot in full dress and walked around thanking veterans and families for their sacrifices, but he wanted to do more.
“I marched into the middle of the street and popped up the salute,” he said. “The riders passed by me on both sides, and soon I could see tears running down some of their cheeks. I was reaching them.”
Even when he became weary, as the ride can last up to five hours, Chambers remained standing and saluting — acknowledging a “sacred connection” between him and each biker.
“At the end of my first salute in 2002, hundreds of veterans thanked me for giving them a ‘welcome home’ they never received,” he said.
A widow whose husband had committed suicide after he returned home from war was participating in the parade that year and stopped to hug Chambers’ wife.
“She informed Lorraine that she was standing for her!” the Marine wrote about the encounter on his website. “Very powerful and put it in perspective for both of us.”
He also noted that his bride looked “so amazing” in her wedding dress and said he was “so lucky” to have a woman who supported his efforts as the Saluting Marine.
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