RAINELLE – The “Rolling Thunder” storms into Greenbrier County Thursday afternoon.
“I just get chill bumps when I see them coming down the hill,” says Greenbrier Commissioner Karen Lobban. “If you have not seen it, it's well worth the trip to come here and see it.”
For the last 27 years, hundreds of bikers roll into Rainelle as a pit stop before reaching a final destination.
Terry Porter is a biker coming all the way from California. He’s been making the trip for years, and he says it keeps getting better every year.
“The community wasn't real sure the first time Gunny talked to them about bringing a bunch of bikers through, but over the years they saw that most of us are veterans and as patriotic as this little town is, they just started welcoming us more and more.”
“It’s probably the biggest event that we have in the town. The students start their first day of school and want to know when they were coming,” says former principal and chairperson of L.Z. Rainelle, Monica Venable.
Now Memorial Day weekend in Greenbrier County is a destination for folks across the state and veterans from across the country.
“We love it here, it's a great ride through here,” says Mike Ables, a biker from Kentucky, “We didn't even know Rainelle existed, (and we) lived in West Virginia for 18 years.”
Locals lined Route 60 with flags while veterans were smiling from ear to ear.
“Even on a warm day you get chills just thinking about that, because it meant so much just to have someone say thank you,” says Porter.
“They give everything to us and our freedom,” says Lobban, expressing her gratitude for the veterans still with us today, “Everything we stand for, they have fought for.”
But even with the festivities and motorcycle parade, there's still a purpose, and it's what Memorial Day is all about – the men and women who died fighting for our freedom.
Their names memorialized on the wall in Washington, where these and thousands of other bikers are headed to pay tribute.
“A lot of people take their freedom for granted,” says Lindsey Sears, a visitor at the replica wall in Rainelle, “I’m proud they fought for us and gave us the freedom we have.”
“It means everything. This is a welcome home. Rainelle is a place to come for that welcome home,” says biker James Gregory, fighting back tears.
It’s 27 years later, and here's to hoping for 27 more.