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Rolling Thunder to Keep Focus on Troops Despite Palin's Appearance

rolling thunder

Motorcycle riders take part in the annual Rolling Thunder demonstration, crossing the Memorial Bridge in front of Arlington Cemetery to pay their respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, May 30, 2010. (Reuters)

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may be stealing the Rolling Thunder from the motorcycling group's annual Memorial Day ride with her plans to tag along on Sunday, but the group says it will keep the focus on their mission to support U.S. troops and veterans.

Palin will ride with the Rolling Thunder and its hundreds of thousands of bikers to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial but she will not make any remarks nor be mentioned in any speeches by members of the group, Rolling Thunder spokeswoman Nancy Regg told Fox News. 

Palin has drawn tons of media coverage with the planned launch of her bus tour of the East Coast starting Sunday, setting off rampant speculation that she is considering jumping into the 2012 presidential contest.

Regg expressed frustration about how all the will-she-or-won't-she media coverage of Palin has threatened to overshadow Sunday's event, which she emphasized is about the Rolling Thunder servicemen and women. Palin will be riding as an equal who will not get any extra attention, Regg said.

Since 1988, Rolling Thunder has been leading a "Ride for Freedom" along the National Mall during Memorial Day weekend in support of soldiers held captive or missing in action. Four Vietnam veterans formed the group a year earlier as part of an effort to pressure the government to take responsibility for troops who were abandoned after the Vietnam War ended.

The group has visited the White House more than half a dozen times. During one visit, members of the group made President George W. Bush an honorary member and presented him with his own cowhide vest jacket as they pushed for increased veterans benefits.

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