On Its 20th Anniversary, West Coast Thunder Brough Bikers Together To Honor The Fallen
As we celebrate Memorial Day and the anniversary of D-Day each May and June, honoring the Greatest Generation of heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and those of our allies and the world, it is comforting to know that so many American patriots remain committed to honoring the fallen.
And no one does it better than West Coast Thunder, the So Cal-based 501c3 organization that supports the Riverside National Cemetery (third largest in the U.S.) and which celebrated 20 years of unfettered dedication and commitment to the cause on May 27, 2019, with its annual parade and event in Riverside and Lake Elsinore, California.
Things kicked off respectfully for this 20th WCT event with a pre-parade commencement ceremony at Riverside Harley-Davidson, the WCT color guard honoring the fallen with a ceremonial flag raising to half-staff and a ceremonial battlefield cross placed respectfully on the back of two Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The battlefield cross, used originally in the Civil War and WWI to mark the temporary grave of a soldier, is typically made up of a rifle, its bayonet stuck into the ground, with the soldier’s helmet perched atop the rifle’s stock and his or her boots and dog tags placed below. This collection has become the symbol of loss, mourning and closure for the living, and for the soldier a visual and material reminder that they’ve marched their final march and will never, ever be forgotten.
The ceremony also included bagpiper Drew Mendonca and an outstanding performance of our National Anthem by biker and Navy vet Michael Austin Martin, 2013 finalist on The Voice. Martin, by the way, will be part of Ted Nugent’s ‘The Music Made Me Do It Again’ tour starting this summer. As in years past, Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, an Army vet and biker himself, gave his shout out to the crowd, and both he and Martin took to the parade route on their Harleys.
This year’s event featured a new end-of-parade rally location at Storm Stadium, home field for the Lake Elsinore Storm minor league baseball team. The parade itself featured some 5,000 motorcycles, which left Riverside Harley-Davidson at precisely 9:11 a.m. escorted by Riverside Police and the California Highway Patrol and led by the Riverside Honor Guard and Color Guard. The parade route snaked through the roads of Riverside, Perris and Lake Elsinore, many of which were lined with community members wearing and displaying their patriotism and waving American flags. The weather was absolutely perfect, and to anyone riding along that day, the sight was about as impressive as it gets.
After arriving at the stadium, riders and passengers descended on the many vendors, took in the car show and got ready for concerts featuring the music of Michael Austin Martin, Tucker Beathard and headliner Randy Houser.
Afterward, Riverside Mayor Bailey reflected on what this event meant to him. “It gives me the most incredible feeling of gratitude, honor and emotion,” he told us, “to ride along the streets of Riverside and see the response from the community as they lined the streets waving flags with the patriotism and honor for those that made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Martin added his own thoughts, saying, “Words will always seem to fall short when describing being a part of this amazing event, from the pure feeling of American pride from the participants to the crowd-lined streets with red, white and blue signs and clothing and Old Glory herself waving in the breeze. Every year, West Coast Thunder breathes life into my patriotic heart and renews my faith in this amazing country I call home.”
West Coast Thunder is a truly special event, as it honors our fallen heroes, supports the good work of the Riverside National Cemetery (over $1 million raised since 2000) and brings together all different bikes, clubs, religions, races, genders and ages.
Key WCT players and supporters include Executive Director Sharon Bridges and husband (and WCT Color Guard member) Jim Bridges, the Inland Empire HOG chapter, Riverside Harley-Davidson owners the Veracka family, KFrog Radio, Stater Brothers Charities, the City of Riverside, Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys and many others.