The Department of Defense denied a parking permit to the American Veterans organization to use the Pentagon as a rallying point for the Memorial Day “Rolling to Remember” ride, ending a 32-year tradition.
“It’s very disappointing and for our members,” said AmVets Executive Director Joe Chenelly. “There’s been shock and deep disappointment expressed to us.”
The 32-year-old tradition brings biker veterans from around the country to ride around the nation’s capital to honor service members who never came home from the nation’s wars. The Pentagon’s massive parking lot has traditionally served as the rallying point for the ride, allowing the veterans to gather and organize before setting off on their bikes.
But this year, the Pentagon seemed hesitant to give the group a permit to use its lot, prompting a local news organization to call the Department of Defense in an attempt to get answers about why the group’s permit had not yet been approved.
“We have not heard from the Pentagon from the day you called them the first time,” Chenelly told reporters with 7News. “That’s been a few weeks now.”
Chenelly eventually did receive a call from the Pentagon Friday, informing him the permit was denied.
“A gentleman at the Pentagon told me that, after careful consideration, our permit application was denied,” Chenelly said. “He said considerations involved the continued spread of COVID-19 in the region and the nature of our event being that we are proposing a large gathering for an extended period of time.”
The Pentagon later confirmed the denial, saying in a statement that it would reconsider the request once COVID-19 conditions change.
“Unfortunately, the department has disapproved AMVETS permit request. The department took into careful consideration all aspects of AMVETS request, to include the current Health Protection Condition status on the Pentagon Reservation; substantial community transmission of COVID-19 in Arlington County, Virginia; number of Americans fully vaccinated across the nation; nature of this event with its decreased ability to maintain physical distance; and large crowds in one location for an extended period of time. This event draws national attention and participation; therefore the risk of exposure from participants from other communities extends well beyond the National Capital Region,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“If COVID-19 conditions permit, the department would gladly consider supporting a future event request from AMVETS, potentially as soon as this Labor Day weekend,” the statement continued. “The department looks forward to supporting future events with AMVETS, and as always, we appreciate AMVETS’ support of our veterans, their families, and their communities, including promoting better awareness of veterans’ issues, as well as AMVETS continued support for our missing-in-action service members.”
But Chenelly said a later date isn’t an option and that the group is looking to secure the site of abandoned RFK Stadium as the new rallying point for the traditional ride. If that plan falls through, Chenelly says riders will find their own rallying points scattered throughout the area and continue the ride as planned.
“You are absolutely right,” Chenelly said when asked if the ride would go on without a central rallying point. “We are seeing it on websites and social media all over the place. Much smaller groups. They’re planning their own smaller rallying points, and they’re coming in.”
Author: Michael Lee