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2014-05-24 13:18

BLESSINGS FOR BIKERS: Gary Hall, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral in the US, sprinkles holy water on Harley-Davidson motorcycles assembled for the annual Rolling Thunder veterans' memorial ride. Image: AFP

WASHINGTON - Holy water fell on the heavy metal of Harley-Davidson motorcycles on Friday when the Washington National Cathedral for the first time blessed the machines converging on the US capital for the 27th annual 'Rolling Thunder' run.

Tens of thousands of motorcycles, many of them ridden by US military veterans, will on Sunday (May 25 2014) be ridden into the National Mall, the nation's symbolic "front yard', in a massive show of support for American prisoners-of-war and those still "missing in action".

The impressive rally takes place every year on the eve of Memorial Day, an American national holiday that pays tribute to America's war dead.


More than 50 participating Harley-Davidsons gathered on Friday (May 23) outside the neo-Gothic National Cathedral for an inaugural "Blessing of the Bikes" by its Episcopalian dean, Gary Hall.

Mac MacDonald, a retired Marine now living in Virginia, told AFP alongside his 2008 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic: "We've got men and women who have served honourably but the United States' government has left them behind.

"We have to make sure that everybody knows these people are still out there."

More than 83 000 American service personnel remain unaccounted for after the Second World War and the Vietnam war and in the Iraq conflict, according to US Defence Department data.

And there remains a US prisoner-of-war from the Afghan conflict - Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a 28-year-old Idaho native held by Taliban forces since June 2009.

Diana Kinder-Conklin, a 'Rolling Thunder' organiser in New Jersey whose father served in the US Air Force, said: "We're here for him. We're here for all PoWs and MIAs from all wars."
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