In the Beginning
Every club, every where must have its beginnings. The Legion Riders are no different. I hope this brief story will help you in learning about our roots and purpose.
In the fall of 1993 Chuck (Tramp) Dare shared a dream with then Post Commander (Polka) Bill Kaledas of 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 intent was to provide an atmosphere whereas 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.
The process began and the original members set out to stay within the scope of the American Legion. In his November 19th, 1993 a reply came from the Legion Department in Michigan, "Sounds like a great idea". Approval for the use of the American Legion Emblem was granted and they were soon known as the "American Legion Riders".
It started with just a small group. Within a few months it grew to nineteen members. By-Laws to help us to provide structure to our group were written. An emblem (back patch) was designed. Legion Rider’s throughout the country wear this emblem today.
It soon became obvious as the membership grew that the Legion Riders were recruiting first time Legionnaires who would have otherwise never joined this veteran organization. Our objective was to support the aims and purposes of the American Legion, through service to our Community, State and Nation. We did so by supporting the local Post in their standard activities and added the more popular biker events, such as Poker Runs, Dice Runs, Biker Games, Rally’s, etc… The fundraisers increased and membership continued to grow. Legion Post appreciation and respect grew as well. The community saw the American Legion in and a new light and liked it. Apprehension of these new "Bikers" was slowly going to the wayside.
In 1996 an article published about the American Legion Riders in the American Legion National publication, the "Dispatch". An article in the American Legion Magazine soon followed up this article.
In 1998 Greater Fort Worth Post 516 formed one of the first American Legion Riders Chapters in Texas as a part of the Post’s Americanism Committee. By 2000 it had grown to over 100 members.
In 2000, the 12th District of Texas decided to look forward and develop a "Riders Post". A temporary Chapter was requested and in February 2001 Congress granted a permanent American Legion Charter to this newly formed post, with the official name of "American Legion Riders Post 135".
Where we are today
As the membership of the American Legion Riders is a very diverse group, so are the programs that they are involved in. By allowing each American Legion Rider Chapter to give their members the ability to manage their program at the Post level, the program has been allowed to grow. Today there exist Legion Rider programs in several states, and many more starting. As of September 2004 there are 34 states and 154 Legion Posts participating in the Riders Program. Currently in the Great State of Texas we have more than 700 Legion Riders.
Who benefits from forming an American Legion Riders Group?
We all do!!!! Many of the groups, in existence today, have all had stories where some of their Post members were a little reluctant to let a group of "Bikers" in to their Post. After seeing what these groups were doing for the American Legion their opinion soon changed. Not only did the Post welcome them, but also in most cases did what they could to help support their efforts, by participating in some of the groups fundraising events. There are also many stories where the American Legion Riders group worked in conjunction with the Post to sponsor a program. The Post was glad to have their help and the Riders were honored to be asked. We were able to break down some barriers. Just because one person wears a leather motorcycle jacket and another wears a golf shirt and slacks. We now know that we can work together to promote the aims and purposes of the American Legion. We have done it, and everyone involved was able to see the benefit.
Membership!! Literally every Post program of the American Legion Riders has brought in members that may not have joined the American Legion were it not for the Riders program. The Riders program has been able to spark a new interest to join the American Legion. Some of these members, who joined for the Legion Rider program, have gone on to serve as Officers within their Post. Conversely, we have also had Post members go out and purchase motorcycles just to join the Riders. The program was designed to have people work together and enjoy themselves. It may be a group of Riders working on a fundraiser 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.