Welcome woman taking part in Rolling Thunder in memory of Vietnam vet brother
Annual motorcyclist event draws attention to POWs, MIAs
When Debbie Hawley of Welcome takes part in the Rolling Thunder run this Memorial Day, she’ll be doing it in memory of her late brother, Bruce Winslow, a Vietnam veteran who died in 2010.
“He always wanted to do this for his fellows who didn’t make it back,” Hawley said. “It means the world to me to be able to do this.”
The Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run is a gathering of motorcyclists from across the nation who come together yearly to visit the Vietnam Memorial and other Washington, D.C., veterans memorials and to remember and bring awareness to those Prisoners of War (POWs) and Missing in Action (MIAs) who never returned to the United States, according to its website.
“It’s also to recognize our POWs and those who have not returned from our conflicts overseas and it’s dedicated to bringing them back and honoring them,” said Jamie Zayas, vice director of the American Legion Riders of Harry White Wilmer Post 82 in La Plata.
Hawley said her brother served in the Vietnam War in the 1960s where he was shot twice, with the second bullet damaging his spine. She said he never really recovered from the physical and emotional wounds created by the war.
“He had a lot of nightmares, all his life,” Hawley said. “When he came back, he was spit on, he was called a baby killer, and that was very traumatic to him.”
Hawley said her brother always wanted to take part in Rolling Thunder, to remember those left behind, but his inju-
ries prevented him from doing so.
Hawley’s brother died in 2010, from complications related to his service.
“He meant the world to me, and I was with him the last two weeks of his life,” Hawley said.
Through her church, Pisgah United Methodist Church, Hawley took part in a Veterans Stand Down at the American Legion Post 82, where she met Zayas.
“I asked him, ‘Is there any way I could ride with you for Rolling Thunder in honor of my brother, who died in Vietnam?’” Hawley recalled.
“I said, of course I’d offer my bike and be her rider,” Zayas recalled.
Hawley will bring a portion of her brother’s ashes on the trip, and will also have his picture on the back of her vest.
“Who knows? There could be somebody there who was with him in Vietnam, and might recognize the picture,” Hawley said.
Hawley is very grateful for being able to complete this ride in her brother’s memory.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” Hawley said. “It means so much that someone has thought so much of my brother that we’re going to be able to do this.”
Bruce Winslow, a Vietnam War veteran, died in 2010. His sister is taking part in the annual Rolling Thunder event in his memory.