NEWBURYPORT — The men and women of two locally based motorcycle groups don’t ride their bikes merely to enjoy the open road.
They ride to assist others who have kept this country safe during times of combat.
Fred Hardy of Rowley, president of the New England Chapter of Patriot Riders, said his organization seeks out and helps veterans in need through difficult times.
For Newburyport’s Frank Peluso, secretary of Rolling Thunder Chapter 1, the focus is on reminding people of the 92,000 military men and women still unaccounted for since World War I.
That somber fact will be highlighted all year at Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots organization has dedicated a chair that will remain empty in honor of those who are still listed as missing in action or prisoners of war.
The empty chair was commemorated by Patriots owner Robert Kraft during a ceremony at the stadium on Nov. 9. Rolling Thunder’s message then was broadcast nationwide during the Patriots’ nationally televised game on Sunday, which coincided with Veterans Day.
“We were there for the ceremony,” Peluso said. “Mr. Kraft was at the dedication. I swear I saw a tear in his eye. He was very touched by the whole thing.”
Peluso said Rolling Thunder next hopes to place similar MIA/POW tributes at Fenway Park and TD Garden as well as at some local restaurants, so patrons will remember the forgotten.
Rolling Thunder was founded in 1987 by Ray Manzo and Artie Muller because they believed the government wasn’t doing enough about MIAs and POWs, said Peluso, who served state-side in the Army Corps of Engineers Reserves from 1966 to 1972. Rolling Thunder’s first event was a ride that year in Washington, D.C., and there’s been a ride every year since to continue bringing attention to those still missing.