The Lone Marine
By: Phil Scott
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 29
Thousands of people were lining the streets. It was May 29, Rolling Thunder Sunday in Washington, D.C., and the Run For The Wall was about to start. Impatiently pacing, I was scanning the crowds for one individual in particular, a Marine in full dress uniform. This particular marine had captured my curiosity. For the past several years, I had seen him in his dress uniform standing on the double yellow lines holding a salute for every biker in the Thunder procession. He would stand at attention from start to finish. This was a feat that would last over four hours and display the meaning of intestinal fortitude. I was on a quest to talk to this marine. I had tried in vain calling all the usual suspects from the Marine Corps, but no one knew anything on the subject. Only later did I find out this marine was a lone wolf, not a sanctioned poster boy for The Corps.
Noon was fast approaching and you could hear the collective roar of bikes getting ready to run their pilgrimage. I took one more long look around the corner of Constitution Avenue and then I saw him. Moving with a half swagger and half march, the marine approached, his family in tow, and he headed toward his appointed spot just shy of the turn onto Constitution. As he walked you could hear the loud shouts of "Semper Fi" which were in turn answered with a guttural "hoorah!" Along the way, he shook hands and stopped often to kneel down and talk to kids. You could feel his energy as he drew nearer and heard him speak. His demeanor was stern, but kind, and when he spoke he looked directly into your eyes. With a firm handshake, he agreed to give me a few minutes at the end of the run after the last bike rolled by. I in turn assured him a cold bottle of water when he was done. I knew he would need it.
A giant rock of a man was assigned to help guide motorcycles to the left and right, a road guard if you will. The marine began to take his position in the center of the street when a young boy wearing a Marines shirt walked up to him and in the blink of an eye, they were doing push-ups in the middle of the road. Suddenly, the call came out that the Run For The Wall was about to start. People were quickly cleared from the street. The roar of machines grew louder and the unrelenting lines of bikes appeared. In one smooth mechanical motion, the lone marine cocked his salute as bikes began to roll by.
The marine is Staff Sergeant Tim Chambers. I spoke to his mom, Diane Desantis, his grandmother Anne Desantis, his girlfriend, Mariam Ebrahimi and his buddy Nathan Linkof. Tim was one of six kids in a very active household. He came from a lineage of military folks as his father was a marine in Vietnam and his grandfather was in the Coast Guard in World War II. Tim?s family came from the small town of Silverton, Oregon.
Tim spends hundreds of hours helping out various charities, advocates for veterans' benefits and their causes and visits veterans' hospitals. Tim's card explains what he is all about. He is starting a charitable organization called "Tim-for-America" whose centerpiece is, "improving the quality of life of our youth, the less fortunate and heroic veterans." His aim is ambitious, but simple: Get people involved and volunteer to help.
After more than four hours, the last bikes finally came over the bridge and slowed down to pass by Tim. When the last escort motorcycle rode by, Tim cracked his salute in perfect military precision. He did a left face and walked toward his family. The surrounding crowds erupted into applause and people came from everywhere to shake Tim's hand and thank him. He would in turn thank every person for being there. Although sweating, Tim seemed no worse for the wear.
Tim explained that for several years, when he was stationed in D.C., he would wear his uniform during Rolling Thunder and walk around talking to people. He would shake hands and thank veterans and their families. He listened to their stories and their plights. Tim decided that he wanted to do something to show that he cared. He spontaneously, in full uniform, stepped into the road during Rolling Thunder 2002 and gave his salute to the riders in the Run For The Wall. The next couple of years his spontaneous salute evolved in to a planned event. This year, he was invited by The Rolling Thunder organization, which flew his family in from Oregon and Tim from 29 Palms, California.As I walked away, it struck me that I hadn't asked the most important question. I turned around and called him, "Sergeant Chambers, why the salute?" His response was effortless and profound, "It's about the pain. A lot of these heroic guys still hurt and if I can relieve their pain for just one brief moment, then I've done my job."
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