by Lou Furry
HARDWICK – On Saturday, May 28, The American Legion Riders of Hardwick American Legion Post 7 joined the rest of our American Legion family in the color guard leading the Spring Festival parade, as we have done since our Chapter’s inception. We have always been well-received by the parade attendees and this year was no exception, for which we are grateful. Believe it or not, we can often hear the onlookers over the roar of engines and exhaust pipes and have heard many a kind word from the crowd. I even got a little giggle out of this year’s comments, one of which was “Oh, look, it’s Hardwick’s motorcycle gang.” While I know that this was said in jest, it has caused me to pause and do some thinking about perceptions. In particular, what if someone actually held that as a serious belief? That gave me even greater pause and made me decide to attempt to clarify who we really are and what we do. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you now that I am the director of the Hardwick Chapter and the Director of The American Legion Riders of the Department of Vermont, which covers all of the Chapters in the state.
Now, who are we?
I think this can best be answered by stating who we are not. We are not outlaws. We are not a motorcycle club (MC). We don’t wear “colors”, which are the standard 3-piece backpatch that MCs normally use. We wear a simple, one-piece backpatch. Some of our members will sometimes add top and/or bottom rockers that identify their veteran status and branch of service, and that is their choice but it is not “officially” a part of our backpatch. We do not wear an MC patch. As the Director for the Department of Vermont, I do occasionally remind members not to refer to our backpatch as colors or to their Chapter as their club. In this way we can differentiate between us and MCs and avoid misunderstandings.
As for who we are, we are a nationwide organization of veterans (Legionnaires). We are spouses, daughters and granddaughters of veterans (Auxiliary members). We are sons and grandsons of veterans (Sons of the American Legion). This is a requirement for membership in The American Legion Riders. As members of The American Legion Family, we use our motorcycles and our passion for riding to support American Legion programs. These include programs for veterans, for children and youth, and for our community, state and nation. We also have a responsibility to act in a manner that brings no dishonor to our American Legion organization.
American Legion Riders chapters are well known for their charitable work, which has raised millions of dollars for local children’s hospitals, schools, veterans’ homes, severely wounded service members and scholarships. Since 2006, Riders nationwide have participated in The American Legion Legacy Run to annually raise money for the Legacy Scholarship Fund, established to provide scholarships to children of U.S. military personnel killed since Sept. 11, 2001. Many of us are also members of The Patriot Guard Riders, who are well known for providing funeral honors for veterans.
As director of both my own chapter and the state organization, I can tell you that these Riders are some of the hardest-working people in the American Legion Family, to the point where we spend far more time working and supporting events than we do riding for our own pleasure. In addition to supporting American Legion programs, we also support events like the United Motorcyclists of Vermont Toy Run, Bikers for Beth, cancer runs and memorial runs for fallen troops. This is all in addition to the efforts of our hard-working Legionnaires, Auxiliary members and Sons of the American Legion who, together, create a total package of service to our veterans and our communities.
We, here at the Hardwick Post, are proud of our Chapter, our Post and our Town of Hardwick. We strive to be an asset to all three. We welcome you to get to know us and find out for yourself who we are. In fact, we are going to be offering a $7 breakfast buffet at the Hardwick American Legion Post on July 17, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., which will be open to the public. Proceeds from this breakfast will be used to support Legion programs, with particular emphasis on the previously mentioned Legacy Scholarship Fund. Feel free to join us, talk to us and get to know us. We will welcome you.
[Lou Furry is the director of the Gateway Riders of Hardwick American Legion Post 7, American Legion Riders, Department of Vermont.]