He is too modest to tell his story but he has given me permission to share with others. It is inspiring and moving. This article was recently published in the Dept. of Homeland Security staff newsletter. I am proud to call him my friend. (photos available upon request)
A Weekend … To Remember
By: JD Powers aka Rawhide US Military Vets MC, Northern Virginia chapter.
Every Memorial Weekend, over 300-700 thousand riders from across the country gather in the Nation’s capital for Rolling Thunder in honor of POW/MIA. It is neither a parade nor a rally, it is a demonstration to BRING THEM HOME and to let service members know that they are NOT FORGOTTEN. That is why I go every year and the reason I bring my daughter to that event ... to educate her, and her generation.
I am honored to share SSgt Tim Chamber’s story... Without fail, for the last 16 years, SSgt. Chambers stands on Constitution Avenue with a stoic salute for three to four hours, rain or shine, or in the blazing heat. From the first year I saw him in 2002, it was his commitment to Veteran causes that made me realize I can do MORE, and why I include my daughter every chance I can.
My weekend encounter with SSgt Tim Chambers actually began when I took personal leave on Thursday so I could ride with my “brothers”- representing all branches of the service, down to Dumfries, Va and escorted Sgt. Matthew White, US Army ... wounded Warrior … to his future new home dedication ceremony where his home was being dedicated to an American Hero…. There was not a dry eye in the place, Operation Finally Home-Honoring Heroes With Homes. Built to Honor, Surprise & Reveal - groundbreaking ceremony put on by the Pulte Group … www.operationfinallyhome.org.
I ride with a club called the US Military Vets MC….on the back is what we refer to as our colors, the bottom rocker lists your branch of service…I call those in my club my “Brothers” for we are of one service now…. On the front of my vest is my road name…given to me by my Brothers. I go by the road name Rawhide…. My Brothers gave me that name because I served under President Reagan. My last duty while in the US Marines, I was assigned to the Presidential Executive Helicopter Squadron One-HMX-1. Rawhide was President Reagan’s code name given to him by the US Secret Service. Since I was assigned to HMX-1 as a Marine in the executive protection detail, my brothers saw it fitting to name me after Reagan. I wear that name with HONOR.
On the front of my vest I wear the Presidential Service Badge (PSB) awarded to me by President Reagan, number 8324, which signifies how many military members were awarded that PSB prior to my number…and there are a number of patches or dog tags with fallen “brothers” that I wear in their honor, all personally known to me.
Later that evening, I rode to the Fairfax County Police Academy and served as a role player for 4 hours so that police officers could get advanced training on Civil Disturbance training.
Early Saturday morning, I went to the American Legion, Post 364 in Woodbridge Virginia to assist in prep work for Saturday’s Burger Run where my Brothers and Legion members from Post 364 rode/drove down to Richmond, VA where we cooked hotdogs and hamburgers for veterans at the McGuire's Veterans Hospital. After cooking the meals, we hand carry them to each medical unit and present them to the vets and THANKED them for THEIR service. Those that were able to come outside, enjoyed music and good times as our club and members of the Legion hosted them. The most touching part came when I walked down to the mental health unit with another brother, US Army, of mine that I ride with and a proud legion member that served in the US Air Force presented freshly cooked hotdogs and hamburgers … these vets hardly see anyone all year long, and they were ecstatic, thus a new meaning behind the phrase Never Forgotten. That phrase means so much more to me and for today’s era veterans. Those that made it home are often forgotten, but not on our watch. I took extra pride serving these veterans due to my brother’s car accident and the medical conditions he has to this day going back 30 + years.
On Sunday, the day of Rolling Thunder, my daughter and I got up and zero dark thirty and rode down to DC, after meeting up with some very close friends. I ran into SSgt Tim Chambers, retired, (known as the Saluting Marine and the Lone Marine) http://www.thesalutingmarine.com/ after taking my daughter and close friend around to all the memorials explaining the meaning behind them. That is when I could tell something was amiss ... SSgt Chambers seemed nervous, which is not like him. After speaking with him, I learned he was about to get married, right on the VERY spot he stands and salutes every rider that passes him during Rolling Thunder as a tribute to that veteran’s service and his way of saying THANK YOU and WELCOME HOME to ALL, NOT just the Marines.
He is so passionate and dedicated about veteran’s causes, one just has to learn his story … I was HONORED that he asked me to be in his wedding and escorted his mother down the makeshift aisle. Prior to the wedding, the crowds were HUGE … word was spreading, and spreading fast … every biker who ever rode during Rolling Thunder from 2002 to present knows this Marine. As the crowds gathered in the heat, I played security and crowd control until the wedding party arrived. I proudly stood next to his bride during the wedding ceremony. Two hours later … bikes were roaring past SSgt Chambers … an all-too-familiar sight for those that ride in Rolling Thunder over the last 15 years. With the EXCEPTION that THIS TIME, his wife was by his side in her full wedding dress … you could see tears in people’s eyes with that sight and knowing this man’s personal story … one of dedication, honor, fortitude and PRIDE!
As I mentioned, SSgt. Chambers story is well known to riders in Rolling Thunder, but those that don’t ride or haven’t seen his story…it is one of inspiration & motivation!!!
The MOST touching part of SSgt. Chambers’ tradition, for me, in honoring veterans on this day occurred in 2011 where he stood at his Post at full attention saluting with a broken wrist. SSgt. Chambers stood for hours with his salute, in the heat … shaking in pain ... I’ll NEVER FORGET THAT DAY ... I and so many others stood on the sidelines watching him to make sure he was OK and let him know we had his six!!! A few younger Marines in Dress Blues were standing at the ready to step in in case SSgt. Chambers was not able to continue with what he started ... talk about an emotionally filled and extremely touching day.
My weekend ended on Monday where I typically ride with my daughter, friends, loved ones and my brothers down to Quantico National Cemetery and participate in the Memorial Day service…however, this year…sad to say, yours truly broke down on the side of the road prior to making it to Quantico. My forward control shifter decided it had enough shifting; so my daughter and I were stranded….until…one of my “brother’s in arms”- US Navy, sent his daughter to come rescue me with a tool box loaded with what I needed to fix my Harley … as we said in the military and ever so true since transitioning into the civilian world … it’s about the BROTHERHOOD no matter the branch of service one may have joined…it is the calling to one’s country that bonds us ALL into that fraternity called the USA! Although I never made it to Quantico on that day…as a father, I spent the best time sitting next to my scoot with my daughter by my side …. all I can say is, LIFE IS GRAND. And THANK YOU for your service!
That’s the story of what led up to me attending the Saluting Marine’s wedding.
Note: Story and Photos property of JD Powers
Shared with permission from JD Powers fto American Legion and American Legion Auxilliary