The American Legion Riders
In the fall of 1993 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 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.
Not knowing how to start this group up, and stay within the scope of the American Legion, a letter was written to then Department Adjutant Hubert Hess. In his November 19th, 1993 reply he stated that it "Sounds like a great idea". In this letter, and follow-up phone conversations, he gave us instructions on how to manage this program at our Post. He also provided us information on how to get approval for the use of the American Legion Emblem. We then sought to get this program recognized through our Post Membership. The idea was brought up at our Post meeting to have our Post sponsor the group to be known as the "American Legion Riders". It was passed by our members and thus became the birth of the first American Legion Riders group.
We started with just a small group. Within a few months we grew to nineteen members. We worked on developing a set of by-laws to help us to provide structure to our group. We designed an emblem for the American Legion Riders. This emblem, contained within its design, the emblem of the American Legion. Working closely with our Department Adjutant we were able to gain approval, by the national headquarters of the American Legion, to have our emblem manufactured for our group. This emblem is worn today by Legion Rider groups throughout the country and is available to it's members through and State chapters.
Another important decision we made, with concurrence of our Department Adjutant, was to not require members that wanted to become legion Riders to transfer to our Post. Our Post sponsored the American Legion Rider group, but not all of our members belong to our Post. We felt that if we required members to transfer to our Post that this would cause a lot of hard feelings in other Post near our own community. What we soon found out was that our membership grew, not from current legion members, but many joined the American Legion to become members of the American Legion Riders. A very conservative estimate would say that over half of our current membership joined the American Legion to enable them to join the Riders.
Right after starting we proceeded to get down to "business". Our objective was to support the aims and purposes of the American Legion, through service to our Community, State and Nation. We did such things as putting on a "Bingo" at the VA Hospital, putting on fundraisers for local charities, participating in motorcycle "runs" to raise money for charity and participation in ceremonies and parades. We did have some Post members who thought, in the beginning, that we would be just a bunch of "Bikers". After seeing the kinds of things we did, we gained a lot of respect in both the American Legion community as well as our own community.
In 1996 we had an article published about the American Legion Riders in the American Legion National publication of the "Dispatch". An article in the American Legion Magazine soon followed up this article. In about 1996 "Tramp" moved to Texas, where he did a great job of promoting the Legion Rider program there. Today, there are groups of American Legion Riders throughout the country.