BUCHANAN, Va. – This Memorial Day weekend, people in Botetourt County are paying honor to veterans and those who died serving our country. We caught back up with more people headed to Washington, D.C. for the final Rolling Thunder as they made some special stops along the way.
One of the stops in our area was a Flame of Freedom ceremony at New Freedom Farm in Buchanan. The flame is carried by a specific chapter of Rolling Thunder as they head to DC to meet up with the larger group. The Run for the Wall is also happening at the exact same time, but this is the last Rolling Thunder and that made Thursday's stop even more special.
The bikes rumbled through Buchanan Thursday night but peoples' eyes weren't on the white wall tires or shiny chrome. They were locked onto the torch making its way in. Glynna McKendree of Oxoford, Mississippi, said her husband started the flame tradition. They are members of Rolling Thunder Mississippi Chapter 1.
"The story of the flame is that it burns like the light at the top of the lighthouse or a porch light to say it's always welcome, it's always there, we're going to bring you home," McKendree said.
New Freedom Farm organized the warm Blue Ridge welcome for the Flame of Freedom ceremony. Lois Dawn Fritz is the founder and a veteran herself.
"Here in Buchanan at New Freedom Farm we save one veteran, one day at a time, and veterans come here with PTSD, invisible wounds, and this was just something to coordinate it all together," Fritz said.
The goals of New Freedom Farm and Rolling Thunder align, taking care of vets and remembering those who didn't come home. It had all the makings of summer fun, but this was something completely different.
"I want people to remember that Memorial Day is not a mattress sale, Memorial Day is to honor those who have fallen and this weekend we need to think about all the people who gave their lives for our country each and every day," Fritz said.
After more than three decades, this is Rolling Thunder's last year. While the flame will never be extinguished, it is the last time it will make the trip, and they're happy to have it shining at a place like this while they can.
"We don't really want them to thank us because we want to shine that light on them for all that they've done and this place is just again another offshoot to protecting the veterans," McKendree said.
The Rolling Thunder group is spending the night in our area Thursday, and Friday morning they'll hit the road for the rest of the journey to D.C. Between the two groups, hundreds of thousands of bikers are expected to be in Washington, D.C. for the holiday weekend.