OK American Legion - improving the lives of veterans, the military and their families
OK American Legion - improving the lives of veterans, the military and their families
American Legion Riders chapters are well known for their charitable work, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local children's hospitals, schools, veterans homes, severely wounded service members and scholarships. Since 2006, Riders nationwide have participated in The American Legion Legacy Run to annually raise money for the Legacy Scholarship Fund, established to provide scholarships to children of U.S. military personnel killed since Sept. 11, 2001.
In Garden City, Mich., in 1993, Chuck "Tramp" Dare and Bill "Polka" Kaledas, commander of American Legion Post 396, shared an idea to start a motorcycle enthusiasts association within the organization. The two longtime riders wanted an environment where Legion family members could come together to share a common love for motorcycles.
Dare and Kaledas wrote a letter to Michigan Department Adjutant Hubert Hess, sharing their idea. Hess replied that he liked the concept and wanted to pursue it. Later, he gave Kaledas and Dare instructions for managing the program at the post level. He also explained how they could be approved to use the American Legion emblem, and how to gain Membership's support and recognition. At a regular meeting, Post 396 members passed a resolution for a new program to be known as the "American Legion Riders."
Joined by 19 other founding members from their post, Dare and Kaledas were flooded with requests for information about their organization. They agreed to establish a central source for the Riders to ensure that chapters formed not as motorcycle clubs or gangs, but as Legionnaires and Auxiliary and SAL members joining to ride as Legion family.
On July 12th 2020, the Oklahoma Legion Riders completed our First Annual Oklahoma State Legacy Ride. The Ride is a fund raiser for the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund. The fund provides scholarships to children of Veterans who have lost their lives while on active duty since 9-11 and recently, children of veterans with 50% or more disability. The group included Legion Riders from Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. Mark Clark (Missouri), Chairman, American Legion Riders Advisory Board and Steve Ridenour (Oklahoma), Vice Chair accompanied us on the Ride. The riders from Kansas; Chris, Denny, T-man, and Diana are longtime friends of ours from previous National Legacy Rides. Oklahoma Riders from Skiatook, Post 131, Pawhuska Post 198 and Riders Post 1340 made up the remainder of the 29 riders.
I wish to thank all the Posts that helped us along the route. Post 111 in Edmond was our first stop and ended up with more than they bargained for. Between the time we left Post 12 in Warr Acres, and the time we arrived in Edmond, a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for our area. We made it to Post 111 just in the nick of time. As all heck broke loose, the decision was made to shelter in place until the storm passed. Our departure time initially was 1100 however that did not happen until 1300. Ken Wyatt, David and Doris Heald, Ray McCormick and Steve Henry were very patient with us and even provided lunch for us. My greatest appreciation goes out to them. Okmulgee was our next scheduled stop however due to the “rain delay” we cancelled that stop. Richard Raby of Post 10 was very gracious when I called and told him of the circumstances. Richard notified everyone in Okmulgee of the change in plans.
The ride from Edmond to Mohawk Post 308 in Tulsa was pretty much uneventful except the quick cloud burst just before Stroud. Bob Coffey and ALR Toran Vietta hosted our visit. They laid out a great spread of sandwiches and cold drinks. George Nonamaker, Past Department Commander accepted our Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of Post 308. A cash donation was presented to the Riders by Toran.
We ended the day in Muskogee. A wreath laying ceremony was performed at the Batfish Memorial by Mark Clark, Steve Ridenour, Denny McDonough, Mike Harris, and myself and then a quick tour of the exhibits hosted by the park staff. Chris Krueger of the Kansas ALR played “Taps” during the ceremony and at all subsequent ceremonies on the ride. Carmine Capparello of Muskogee Post 15 treated the group to a supper of fried chicken and all the fixin’s. After supper and some cool down time, we retired to the hotel to rest up for Saturday.
Kickstands Up at 0830 Saturday morning and we headed for Post 20 in Ft. Gibson. We picked up our LEO escort and was escorted to Post 20 where we were greeted by Tim Smith, Past Department Commander. ALR Challenge Coins were presented to the officers who provided our escort and a Certificate of Appreciation was presented to Commander Smith. Our primary destination was the Ft. Gibson National Cemetery. Our group performed a wreath laying with “Taps” played by Chris.
We left Ft. Gibson and headed to the Cherokee Warrior Memorial in Tahlequah. Upon our arrival we were met by the Cherokee Nation's Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr, Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden and Veterans Center Director Barbara Foreman hosted the event. The members of the Cherokee Nation were very appreciative of the Riders stopping and recognizing their Warriors’ Memorial with a wreath laying ceremony. Covid-19 protocols were in place at the Nation’s Complex. Since all of the Riders had their own face coverings Chief Hoskins presented us with packages of N95 masks. After a quick ride to Steve’s Tahlequah Post 135 for a visit, we were off to Vinita for lunch.
After a nice cool although humid start in the morning, the day started to heat up. The arrival at Vinita found us hot and thirsty but that was quickly remedied. The air conditioning was on high and the beverages were on ice. Dan Wadley and David Garrett of Post 40 treated us to a great lunch and conversation. After a wreath laying at their POW/MIA Memorial we were off to Skiatook. Johnnie Brown, commander of Skiatook Post 131, led the way. I was sure he knew a short cut, which he did. The day did not get any cooler but when we got to the Post there was a plenty of drinks to take care of the problem and the Auxiliary provided some snacks. Since we were a little ahead of schedule, we took our time leaving the post. Before we left, we were presented with donations from the Riders’ Chapter and the Auxiliary. The Commander of Collinsville Post 2, Neal York was present and donated to the Ride. A Certificate of Appreciation was presented to Johnnie Brown who accepted it on behalf of the Post.
The last stop for Saturday was Pawhuska Post 198. Before heading to the post, we checked into our motel and then visited the Osage Nation Warriors Memorial. This memorial is quite impressive and if you ever find yourself in Pawhuska, it is worth the time to visit. We were greeted at the Post by Danny Mooney, Post Commander and Charlie O’Leary, Department Vice Commander East and many members of the post. After a quick photo op for the local paper we were treated to a great supper. When supper was finished a Certificate of Appreciation was presented to Post Commander Mooney and the Post donated to the Ride.
Last day on the Road. Saturday night there was tremendous lightning show in Pawhuska. It was a good thing most of it stayed south of us. After breakfast at Buffalo Joes, Sunday morning was a cool pleasant ride to Ponca City. There we met Mark Lechtenburg and members of Post 14 at North Park. We assembled and crossed the street to the War Memorial Park where we conducted a wreath laying at the POW/MIA Memorial. Diana took Denny’s place in the flag detail. After a quick road briefing, we were off to the Woodring Memorial Wall in Enid. We were met at the Wall by Department Vice Commander West, Sam McPherson. The Woodring Wall is an 80% scale wall of the Vietnam wall in D.C. There is a Visitor Center which to our disappointment, is not open on Sunday. However, we had plenty of cold water in our chase vehicle. We performed our last wreath laying ceremony at the Wall. The Kansas and Missouri contingent departed company from here. Mark Clark would have gone on to El Reno with us, but National business called. After all the hugs and kisses were done, the three groups headed their separate ways. The Oklahomans headed to El Reno Post 34. This was our last stop of the day. Mike Fussel and the Post provided us with a great end of Ride meal of chicken fried steak. It was appreciated.
I wish to thank all the Posts that hosted us along the way and those that made monetary donations. It really means a lot to us that you are willing to provide support for the cause. This was the first, in what I hope are many State Legacy Rides. In the future, we will be planning different routes across the state of Oklahoma. When the routes are set up, your Post may be one we contact. Covid-19 threw a wrench into our planning this year. Hopefully, next year we can get a jump on it and get the word out early. At this point in time, we have a total of $3,071.00. This came from registrations and donations. We are not done yet. If you or your post would wish to contribute there is still time. Address is below.
National is planning a Pony Express ride to Indianapolis to deliver department contributions to the National Commander. This is scheduled for October 17th. Oklahoma City will be a “meeting up” point for Riders from Texas and states west. Details to come.
Department of Oklahoma
American Legion Riders Post 1340
P.O. Box 272374
Oklahoma City, OK 73119