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Friday
May272011

Rolling Thunder Riders Praise Sarah Palin's Participation in Rally

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For the riders of Rolling Thunder, the news that Sarah Palin will participate in their national rally on Sunday came as a welcome surprise.

"I think that’s wonderful," said Gerri Tramel, president of one of Rolling Thunder's Tennessee chapters. "Anybody that's involved -- Republican, Democrat, Independent, whatever -- if you're involved with our veterans, I think that's wonderful. Not just Sarah Palin -- anyone that's a politician."

For more than 20 years, as many as half a million motorcycle riders from across the country have descended on Washington, D.C., during Memorial Day weekend to raise awareness about prisoners of war and those missing in action. Rolling Thunder announced Thursday that Palin accepted an invitation to participate in its May 29 rally. She'll kick off her One Nation Tour the same day, a bus trip along the northeast coast that aims "to educate and energize Americans about our nation's founding principles."

"If she wants to support the troops, we're all for it," said Greg Benson, president of Rhode Island's Rolling Thunder chapter.

"I certainly welcome any positive publicity surrounding our cause, anything to bring attention to POWs and MIAs," said Jeffrey Stewart, who leads a Rolling Thunder chapter in New Hampshire, a state that will be crucial to Palin if she runs in 2012. "Whether it's a celebrity or a politician-celebrity -- I'm not exactly sure what she is right now -- having Sarah Palin there means more people will be paying attention to our cause."

But there are riders who worry that Palin’s presence might take away from the aim of the event.

"I don't know if she's using the veterans or the amount of people there for a political gain," said Susan Bailey, whose husband, Winston Bailey, is the president of an Ohio chapter of Rolling Thunder.

"As far as her running again, I don't know, she seems kind of wishy-washy, quitting the government," Bailey said, referring to Palin's curtailed gubernatorial stint in Alaska. "Whether she's really committed to it is my question."

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