American Legion Riders group will raise money for community
PARK RAPIDS -- "Have 'trike' will travel," is Richard Martin's credo, and he's inviting others to join him on the journey.
An American Legion Riders group has formed, a civic-minded motorcycle club that plans to raise funds for community programs as well as assisting in flag lines during funerals and visiting veterans in "soldier homes."
The two-tour Vietnam veteran and his nine cohorts are starting a membership drive, with members of the American Legion, Sons of the American Legion and Auxiliary members welcome, as well as honorary and supporting members, those who do not meet the eligibility requirements.
The only condition: the motorcyclists must ride a machine of at least 350CC or better. But that's subject to modification by Legion Riders board members.
Five charter members -- director Marv Vredenburg, chaplain Fred Brown, Eugene Anderson, Tom Parks and Martin -- formed the group, with Legion commander Mike Swanson signing the bylaws.
"This is veterans for veterans," Martin explained.
"To remember the importance of veterans and what they've given us," he said of "the freedom to worship, to walk down the street safely" and other "inalienable rights."
"I consider them my family," said the retired, disabled veteran who served active Army duty and as a member of the Army Reserve and National Guard.
Martin has been aboard a motorcycle since 1966. He sold his 1946 Indian in '69, when he entered the Army, having received orders to head to Vietnam.
He began riding with the Patriot Guard, a national organization of motorcycle enthusiasts who attend the funerals of U.S. armed forces members, firefighters and police, at the invitation of the deceased's family.
The group formed in 2005 in opposition to church protestors, to show "unwavering respect for those who risk their lives for America's freedom and security."
"That first time," he recalled, "it was the most moving thing I've done."
The Legion Riders will ride in conjunction with Patriot Riders, he explained.
The group's formation has been in the works for a year or two. The Walker Legion Riders made a presentation to the Park Rapids Legion members who backed the suggestion.
Now, the assistant director of the Legion Riders is hoping to recruit the new, young veterans returning from Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"To make sure they are never treated like the Vietnam vets," said the soldier who served in two Tet Offensive operations, as well as in Germany.
"I want them to feel welcomed and warmed," he said, as well adding to the voice for veterans' benefits. "This is vets for vets."
Plans call for raising funds for scholarships, the food shelf and other organizations and events.
A Legacy Run is in the planning stages for next summer to raise money for scholarships, which will be awarded locally.
And a fish fry benefit at the end of January will serve as a fundraiser and recruitment event.
"It's so important to pull the young people in," he said. "To let them know how important they are.
"To recognize their sacrifice over the last decade."
For more information, contact Martin at 218-255-0428.
A simple application and $15 annual dues completes "the mission."
Jean Ruzicka is a reporter for the Park Rapids Enterprise, a publication of Forum News Service.