John Williams, the animated president of Missouri Chapter #3 of Rolling Thunder doesn’t want people to be intimidated by the appearance of his POW/MIA awareness group.


“Just show up”

John Williams, the animated president of Missouri Chapter #3 of Rolling Thunder doesn’t want people to be intimidated by the appearance of his POW/MIA awareness group.

“We’re not just a veterans group, though a lot of us are,” he said. “We’re not just a biker group, though a lot of us are.”

With his white beard and leather vest plastered with military patches, Williams made the rounds at Saturday’s fundraiser chili feed and silent auction at the Carthage VFW, chatting with guests, reminding people not to forget dessert and planning Rolling Thunder’s next event, a Missouri POW/MIA awareness motorcycle ride.

Set for Saturday, April 24, the men and women of Rolling Thunder, and anyone else who’s interested, will meet at 8 a.m. in the VFW parking lot to start the ride. They’ll stop by the Mt. Vernon Veteran’s home on the way before finally ending in Monett Park for a MIA/POW recognition ceremony that will include the reading names of current Missouri POWs from the Vietnam and Korean wars.

“We’ve had boots on the ground ever since those wars, and there are still American’s over there. We’ve left people behind.” Williams said.

While the awareness ride isn’t yet an annual event, this year’s won’t be their first. The same program in 2008 drew approximately 150 riders, and many more for the Monett recognition ceremony.

“We’ve had guys show up with canes and walkers,” said Williams.

Williams and Rolling Thunder aren’t the only ones working to promote POW/MIA awareness, State Rep. Don Ruzicka (R-Mt. Vernon) joined in for the chili feed, contributing a flag that once flew over the Missouri Capitol building to the silent auction, and helped read names at the 2008 awareness ceremony.

“I never served in the military myself, so anything I can do to help the men and women in uniform who are over there protecting us, I will,” Ruzicka said.

While the bulk of the riders will be on motorcycles, anyone who doesn’t ride is encouraged to “slap some flags or banners on your vehicle.”

Those interested in more information should call 417-849-8964.

Williams was adamant that everyone is welcome and offered a blanket invitation to all.

“Just show up.”