Cave Creek Riders part of a American Legion Riders’ effort

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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."

Currently, 106,000 American Legion Riders meet in over a thousand chapters in every domestic department and in at least three foreign countries. Riders in Iowa have formed an honor guard called The Five Star Freedom Riders, and Riders in Mulvane, Kan., founded the Patriot Guard to protect the sanctity of military funerals from protesters. Riders in all states have escorted military units returning home from combat tours overseas, conducted massive cross-country fundraising events for wounded warriors from all services, and have raised millions of dollars for countless local, state and national charities.

True to the Legion's grassroots tradition, each chapter manages its programs at the post level, where the best ideas are born. The Riders are part of many projects and events, including:

  • Rolling Thunder, the annual POW/MIA rally in Washington on Memorial Day weekend.

  • Annual regional rides such as Operation Wounded Warrior, sponsored by Riders in Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California and other Western states.

  • Local charity events in support of The American Legion and local communities.

  • Raising money for VA hospitals, women and children centers, children and youth centers, schools and other facilities.

  • Sponsoring or participating in motorcycle runs to benefit numerous charities.

  • Local memorial ceremonies and community parades.

  • The American Legion Legacy Run, an annual cross-country fundraising ride from National Headquarters in Indianapolis to the national convention city.

  • Riding to honor fallen military men and women, and to protect the sanctity of their funerals from those who would dishonor their memory.

  • Escorting military units to departure airfields and airports for combat tours overseas, and welcoming them home upon their return.

All American Legion Rider groups must be a program supported by a Post or Department of The American Legion and shall uphold the declared principles of The American Legion as well as conform to and abide by the regulations and decisions of the Department, Post or other duly constituted Department governing body.

Locally, the Cave Creek Legion Post 34 has a chapter called the Cave Creek Riders. They recently left to ride to San Diego in order to visit the wounded heroes at Balboa Naval Hospital. The riders donated $4,330 cash and $10,000 in gift cards, generously donated by Mike Ferrel, prior to his retirement from Safeway. YMCA has contracted to supervise the Wounded Heroes rehabilitation program. (Thanks go to Cave Creek Legion Post 34 for their contribution herein.)

The cash came from fund raising activities of the local Legion Post Cave Creek Riders. They are rewarded by appearances, like the opening of Walmart, which donated $500 to their program. There are many other fund raising events through out the year and they always welcome donations for their Wounded Heroes project for the Naval Hospital in San Diego. Next year they have vowed to double their donation. They enjoyed pizza and sharing experiences with the troops.

After a side trip to Post 291 in Newport Beach the group returned safely a little more proud from their visit. As they whizz by they look like "Sons Of Anarchy" in their Black Leather clothes with their club identify patches, that have a practical application to handle the sun, rain and wind. Their support truck drives nearby, following in case of a breakdown.

Information is available at The Legion Post 34, 6272 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ 85027, Jay Fisher, President ALR 480-488-2669.

Copyright 2013 by National Legion Headquarters, Washington, D.C. Reprinted with permission.

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