EXCLUSIVE: Ten veterans’ groups wrote a letter to President Biden expressing their displeasure after the Defense Department denied their request for a permit to use its parking lot to stage their Rolling to Remember Memorial Day event.
"Mr. President, we know your support for veterans is genuine, but we wanted you to know that veterans are very unhappy with this decision, and the actions of your administration will unfortunately lead some to question your support," the letter read.
"We are struggling to understand why your administration rejected a permit from veterans’ groups that are trying to maintain a tradition that has spanned more than three decades," the groups wrote. "This event will bring much-needed attention to the ongoing problem of veteran suicide, which takes the lives of 22 veterans each day, as well as the 82,000 service members who are still missing overseas."
American Veterans (AMVET) said that it had requested the permit for this year’s event in May 2020 and heard nothing from the Pentagon until March, despite repeated inquiries.
Organizers said the Pentagon told them in March their permit had been approved. But eight days later, the Pentagon reversed course and said their permit had not yet been approved. One month before the event, the Defense Department told AMVET the permit had been denied due to the risk of spreading Covid-19 at the Pentagon and in Arlington County and argued it would be difficult to make sure riders and participants kept social distance. The Pentagon refused to let AMVETS make its case that it was planning a safe event, according to the letter.
"DOD’s decision is also out of step with the nine federal, local and state agencies that are supporting this year’s event, including the National Park Service, police authorities in Washington and Arlington, and the Virginia State Police," the groups wrote. "In the meantime, the rejection of the permit by the Pentagon will not thwart this event. We expect even more veterans to ride into Washington this year to remind America that the country we all love exists because brave men and women are willing to stand to defend it."
The letter was signed by representatives from the Association of the United States Navy, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Marine Corps Reserve Association, The Independence Fund, Concerned Veterans for America, Special Operations Association of America, Non Commissioned Officers Association, and the Army Aviation Association of America.