Fifty-one years ago, Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day for all of America. The next year, on October 8, 1954, President Eisenhower signed a proclamation that stated: “On that day, let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom.” So, for this month in honor of Veterans Day, I think it is appropriate to share with you, a nationally recognized honorable motorcycle riders’ organization, the American Legion Riders (ALR).
The ALR are members of the American Legion and are also motorcycle enthusiasts. They can be found participating in parades, partaking in motorcycling events, and supporting the communities in which they live, work, and play. Members of the ALR come from the Legion, the Legion Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion.
ALR is not a motorcycle club, and does not follow motorcycle club rules or regulations. They are a family-oriented, just as its parent organization: the American Legion.
This year they celebrated their tenth anniversary of being a national organization. Their history began in the fall of 1993, when Chuck (Tramp) Dare shared a dream with then Post Commander (Polka) Bill Kaledas at the American Legion Post 396 in Garden City, Michigan. The idea came about to start a motorcycle association that would operate within the American Legion. The idea was to provide an atmosphere where Post, Auxiliary and S.A.L. members, who shared an enthusiasm for motorcycles, could come together. It was meant to be a family-oriented group.
They began the long process of gaining approval to use the American Legion Emblem. The Post sponsored the group, which became known as the "American Legion Riders.” Thus, the Post brought about the birth of the first ALR group in 1994.
The small group quickly grew to 19 members and developed by-laws and designed an emblem. They gained approval of the emblem by the national headquarters of the American Legion, which is worn today by ALR groups throughout the country and is available to all State chapters.
Another important decision was made to not require members that wanted to become an ALR to transfer from their Post to one that had an existing ALR organization. This allowed American Legion members from smaller Posts to remain with their local Post, but could be a member and ride with a nearby existing ALR group. This had an unforeseen positive effect, as more veterans joined the American Legion to become ALRs!
Their main objective is to support the aims and purposes of the American Legion, through service to their community, state and Nation. Since the membership of the ALR is a very diverse group, so are the programs that they are involved in. By allowing each ALR Chapter to give their members the ability to manage their program at the Post level, the program has been allowed to grow. Today, there are Legion Rider programs in several states, and many more starting. The types of things that these groups are doing are far too many to mention in this article, but here are a few examples:
The recognition by local communities has marked the program as a true success. The ALR Group in Michigan was even honored by the local city council, when they drafted a resolution declaring the American Legion Riders as a valuable asset to the community. Motorcyclists can be a very dedicated group of people, when you combine that with the fact that they are legionnaires, you create a win/win situation.
- Participating in the annual POW/MIA rally held each Memorial Day weekend in Washington D.C. known as "Rolling Thunder.“
- Sponsoring or participating in local charity events.
- Raising money for such organizations as their local VA Hospital, battered women and children's center, varied children and youth programs, a school for blind children, veterans relief, needy families and many, many others.
- Sponsoring or participating in motorcycle "Runs" to benefit numerous charities, including charities for underprivileged children and medical research, just to name a few.
- Participating in memorial ceremonies and community parades.
- One group is spearheading an effort to erect a "Veterans Memorial Park" in the center of their downtown area.
This rider’s program was designed to have people work together and enjoy themselves. It may be a group of riders working on a fund raiser for a local charity; it may be just a warm summer evening ride together or maybe just sitting at the Post sharing stories. It's all about members working together and playing together - it is there for them to enjoy.
So, if you’re looking for a bunch of great patriotic motorcycle riding guys and gals still doing great things for our veterans, communities and country, check out their web site for membership requirements and ALRs’ locations.
A special note of thanks to American Legion Riders and Pat "Bobcat" Babcock, the Adjutant for the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 396 in Garden City, Michigan, member of the American Legion Riders of the same Post and the "webmaster" to the entire post.