Trump Rolls Into Washington For Biker Rally The presumptive Republican nominee for president addressed Rolling Thunder, the annual gathering of motorcyclists, on Sunday. The group seeks to raise awareness of veterans' issues.
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Trump Rolls Into Washington For Biker Rally

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Trump Rolls Into Washington For Biker Rally

Trump Rolls Into Washington For Biker Rally

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And one more story about this political season. In Washington, D.C. today, thousands of motorcyclists are gathered for the 29th annual Rolling Thunder. It's an event that honors American veterans and tries to draw attention to those who may have been left behind. This year, however, it's not just the roaring of the bikes that gathered all the attention. The presumptive Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, was also there. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: As soon as the bikes begin to roll through Constitution Avenue, Joanne Dejardins (ph) unfurls a giant banner. It has a bald eagle and Trump's familiar slogan - make America great again.

JOANNE DEJARDINS: I just think that he loves his country. I mean, it's been a long time since I felt patriotic. And I know that sounds - probably sounds silly to lot of people.

PERALTA: But not everybody in the crowd loves Donald Trump. Richard Brewster says had he known Donald Trump was speaking he wouldn't have made the trip from Cincinnati.

RICHARD BREWSTER: I fought for this nation. My father served 26 years. My brother's retired. My other brother - we're all military people. You know, I've served for this nation, fought for this nation. I don't want no fool up in office, don't have no agenda.

PERALTA: And Brewster says he has never forgotten what Trump said about Senator John McCain. In case you don't remember, last year Trump was asked how he could antagonize John McCain, a veteran and a prison of war.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK?

PERALTA: I asked Joanna Dejardins how she feels about those words.

DEJARDINS: I have a lot of respect for John McCain. And - but I don't think he's done as much as he could have for the vets.

PERALTA: Just across the way, right in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where Trump was set to speak, I find Bobby Garay (ph). He's sweating in a leather vest with no shirt, and he's admiring the Vietnam Veterans Memorial across the way. This event is important to him, a small token from a country that once spit on him when he came back from the war.

BOBBY GARAY: We'll never heal. I'll always be crazy. But you don't go and take (unintelligible) years of your life and come back sane, OK? And we'll do it again if we have to. And that's where Trump comes in. He's talking the talk.

PERALTA: Garay says Trump will rebuild the military. He'll spend money on vets, and not on foreign aid. But what about what he said about John McCain, I ask.

GARAY: He's trying to win the office. Everybody is lying about everything. Everybody is [expletive].

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Please welcome the next president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump.

PERALTA: Trump came on stage promising to rebuild the military and to build a wall, complaining that traffic had kept the crowd from swelling and rivaling the turnout of the 1963 March on Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: But we have to care of our vets. And in many cases, illegal immigrants are taken much better care by this country - taken care of than our veterans.

PERALTA: The crowd cheered, but then they quickly went back to what they came here to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOTORCYLE REVVING)

PERALTA: Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Washington.

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