It was a crisp, cool morning on Sunday, May 15 as I backed my bike out of the garage and headed north toward Kearney, Missouri. Today was the 3rd Annual All Patriots Poker Run sponsored by the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA), and I was excited to meet up with several of their members who I had talked with just a week earlier at the Bikers Against Child Abuse Bike Show at Knucklehead’s Saloon.
When I arrived at the VFW in Kearney, the parking lot was already full of riders who had gotten up just a bit earlier than I had so they could eat breakfast and chat about the day’s event. As soon as got off my bike, I recognized several members, and after chatting with them for a bit, I made my way to the registration table where Penguin, Calamity and Flipper were busy signing up riders. I filled out the forms, paid my $15, and drew my first card, which was something like a four of clubs; the start of my typical poker hand.
About that time, the bikes started firing up and everyone was off and running. I hung around to take a last minute photos of the group as they headed out, then made my way to the bike, put my camera away, donned my skid lid and realized I was the last one in the parking lot with no idea where in the hell I was going. I dug out the directions on the back of my poker sheet and after getting my bearing straight, headed in the same direction as the pack.
After taking a wrong turn and wandering around the backstreets of Excelsior Springs for a while, I got the directions back out and eventually found my way to the American Legion. I have to admit, that when I have no idea where I’m going, I really miss my girlfriend and backseat navigator, Margaret. Thankfully, there were still a few bikes in the parking lot when I arrived, so I quickly drew my second card, which was something like a ten of diamonds, then rushed back to my bike so I could try to follow the other bikes without having to continue to stop and try to read the directions. That worked much better, and we made our way to the third stop at the National Guard Armory in Richmond, where I drew another crappy card.
We were then off to the fourth stop on our run; the Missouri Veteran’s Home in Cameron, Missouri, which was also the highlight of the trip and the recipients of today’s poker run donations. After everyone drew their fourth card, two of the Combat Veterans pushed their bikes into the main lobby area so the veterans could take a good close look at the motorcycles. This is an incredible facility, and even though the facility is five years old, the place sparkled like it was brand new! There are a total of seven Missouri Veteran’s Homes in the state, with the other six facilities located in St. James, Mt. Vernon, Mexico, Cape Girardeau, St. Louis and Warrensburg.
While we were there, I had the opportunity to meet several wonderful veterans, including Walter Revers. A close friend of Walter’s told me that Walter was a war hero and had also helped build the destroyer, Butler, on which he traveled around the world three times. I also had the opportunity to meet Jim Smith, whose room was decorated with Harley-Davidson memorabilia, but his favorite piece of art was the framed picture of a beautiful eagle, which upon closer inspection, was actually a jigsaw puzzle made up of thousands of tiny pieces.
I also took time to chat with some of the staff, including Celia, who told me all about the facility. She told me there are currently 71 residents, including seven females, who are made up of mostly WWII and Korean War veterans. They have a total of 206 employees, including 58 M*A*S*H volunteers. Celia explained that M*A*S*H stands for Mobilizing Assets to Serve Heros, and is made up of non-nursing personnel who perform functions that do not require a licensed or certified nurse. This gives the nursing staff more time to perform direct nursing care, so by working together as a team, they can all achieve more.
After everyone had finished visiting the residents, Gunner, the CVMA President assembled all the members in front of the facility and presented a check to Celia for $1,566. After taking a few more photos and visiting with the staff inside a bit more, I came out of the building and realized I was again, the last one in the parking lot. Not having anyone to follow, I dug out my directions one last time and headed back to the VFW in Kearney, which was the final stop. When I rolled into Lathrop, I noticed a sign for I-35, and since I was the last rider in the group, decided to forgo the scenic route back to Kearney by hopping on the highway and heading south.
When I got back, there were already a number of riders there, however, since I made good time on the highway, a number of riders rolled in after me. Inside the VFW, the hotdogs were cooking and so was the karaoke; courtesy of DJs Cindy Miller and Randy Allman. Penguin even took the stage and sung his heart out to the crowd. Once all the riders were in and the poker sheets were tallied, Gunner announced that Doug McDonald was the winner of the high hand and Becky Smith won the low hand. Aaron Followwill took home $60 from the 50/50 drawing, and there were also several prizes given away as raffle prizes.
Even though the sun didn’t warm us up much that day, seeing the looks on the faces of the veteran’s at the Missouri Veteran’s Home certainly warmed everyone’s hearts.
For more information in the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, visit their web site at combatvet.org.
Story by Mike Schweder
Photos by Mike Schweder and Flipper