Not long ago, my town was visited by a motorcycle gang on its way back to California from Sturgis. This may surprise you, but I was anxious to introduce my daughter to the group. In fact, my whole family had lunch with them.
They looked the part – they all rode Harleys and dressed in leather. Their faces were tanned and wind-blown, and several sported tattoos. But these riders are different . They ride because they love it, of course, but they also ride, “…in honor of patriotism.” They are the American Legion Riders, and according to their website, “they answer the call to ride in service to Americaâ€™s military, her veterans, and for the children and youth of our country.”
The Legion Riders came into being in 1993, the brainchild of members of Michiganâ€™s American Legion Post 396. Since then it has grown to 800 programs throughout the United States and in several sites overseas. Members of the Riders actually created the Patriot Guard to protect the dignity of military burials from idiot protestors (see “Patriot Guard Riders“).
And man, are they active. Here is a list of some of their activities:
1. Participation in the annual POW/MIA Rally held each Memorial weekend in Washington D.C. known as “Rolling Thunder”.
2. Participation in annual regional rides such as â€œOperation Wounded Warrior, sponsored by Riders in Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California, and several other western states.
3. Sponsoring or participating in local charity events in support of The American Legion or of the community.
4. Raising money for such organizations as local VA Hospitals, Women and Children’s Centers, Children and youth centers, schools, and many others.
5. Sponsoring or participating in motorcycle “Runs” to benefit numerous charities, including charities for underprivileged children and medical research.
6. Participation in local memorial ceremonies and community parades.
7. Annual participation in The American Legacy Run, a fundraising cross-country run from The American Legionâ€™s national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, to the yearâ€™s national convention city.
8. Riding to honor fallen military men and women, and to protect the sanctity of their funerals from those who would dishonor their memory.
9. Riding escort for military units enroute to departure airfields and airports to combat tours overseas, and welcoming them home upon their return.
They’re road-worn, leather-bound and intimidating. But forget all that. That’s all superficial. What matters is what they do, and what they do is inspire pride in being an American. The American Legion Riders are our heroes of the week.
District 28, American Legion Riders in Idaho