One of the most spirited and self-sacrificing veteran support groups wears leather vests and chaps, helmets, riding or after-riding boots, and the ladies might don an assortment of riding beads. They are known as the American Legion Riders.
Rain or shine, in muggy summer or bitter winter, the motorcycle-riding patriots of the American Legion Riders continually answer the call to escort and pay homage to our fallen warriors. Theirs is a noble cause. They ride at their own expense to honor our veterans and to share their mutual love for motorcycles.
Without seeking praise or recognition, they ride to raise thousands of dollars for schools, children's hospitals, scholarships, tributes, veteran causes, charities, and even took the time to participate in the Oktoberfest Parade in Helen.
These are not the stereotypical bikers of Hells Angels notoriety, but a soft-hearted and patriotic group of Americans willing to give rather than take. Their occupations and accomments are as varied as their bikes, most of which cost more than a Kia.
When not raising money, they attend troop send-offs and/or welcome home men and women of our armed forces from recent deployments. They may visit a local VA hospital one day, then bring a smile to a veterans' home resident the next.
And they take care of their own. Legionnaire and American Legion Rider Danny Stephens was recently diagnosed with ALS, known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, and had a tough year battling the disease. The Riders placed Danny on the back of a trike (3-wheeled bike) recently and took him on a short trip which included his favorite restaurant.
I discovered a newfound respect for the Riders on the May 22 Honor Flight which started at the American Legion in Conyers. As I boarded the bus with my World War II veteran in a misty rain, the Riders throttled their bikes and patiently awaited the caravan's departure for Hartsfield-Jackson airport. No frowns, no complaints, just big smiles and a can-do feel-good attitude of another job well-done. My veteran noticed, and said, "Those motorcycle people are very dedicated. Remind me to thank them."
One noteworthy fundraiser is the nationwide Legacy Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships for the children of military personnel who were killed in action on or after 9/11.
Since 2006, all American Legion Riders sources, by their benevolence and generosity, have raised approximately $3 million for various causes.
The U.S. Marines are always looking for ‘a few good men.' The Riders are always looking for ‘a few good riders.' If you love motorcycles and esprit de corps, ride for a great cause.
Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran, freelance writer and columnist. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.