Never forgotten!

Eric Baradat AND Elodie Cuzin –
Wearing bandanas, cowboy hats or gleaming helmets, tens of thousands of war veteran bikers roared through Washington on Sunday to honour US soldiers missing in action in foreign wars.
For 30 years their slogan has been the same: “We will never forget.”
“It’s exhilarating, everybody is so happy to see us,” said Keith Gonzales, after finishing his ride that passed supporters who lined the streets and waved flags or other signs of support.
Gonzales, 64, is a Vietnam veteran. His helmet, jeans, T-shirt, leather vest adorned with coloured patches, his energy and an easy laugh, all belie the traumas of that long war which ended in 1975.
“When we came back from Vietnam we didn’t get this kind of reaction at all. So it’s nice now,” he said.
For Doug Torres, 54, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sunday’s ride was an overwhelming experience.
“Riding along, I could feel a lump in my throat ‘cause Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t very popular either,” he said. “To see the American public out there in the street really felt great.”
Waving banners in the red, white and blue of America’s flag, Shayla Mathei, 43, and Chaz Stamps, 42, clapped and warmly encouraged the riders, many of whom were aboard heavy American-made Harley-Davidson motorcycles. In a dress, shorts and sneakers — with no leather in sight — this pair in their forties had travelled from California for the weekend, and looked nothing like the bikers passing before them.
“We’re here to show our patriotism,” said Mathei, a speech therapist.
“It makes me feel proud and it’s good to honour people that have served our country.”
Stamps is himself a former US Navy sailor.
Honouring the missing as well as soldiers who died under the US flag is the aim of the gathering dubbed “Rolling Thunder,” which was also the name of a major operation which the US carried out to bomb North Vietnam during the war.
The parade began in 1988 with fewer than 3,000 participants under the motto “We will never forget” to press for an accounting of the Vietnam missing. It has grown every year since into a rumbling, roaring extravaganza that organisers say attracts more than a million people, including spectators.
The route took riders into the centre of official Washington, past the monuments on the National Mall and the austere black marble memorial engraved with the names of the nearly 60,000 US soldiers killed during the Vietnam War. — AFP