History of the ALR
By Stacy Stover & Sharon Ingram
Post/ALR 179 Historians
THE AMERICAN LEGION RIDERS
It was in Garden City, MI and 1993 was the year when 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."
Joined by 19 other founding members from their post, Dare and Kaledas were flooded with requests for information about their organization. They agreed to establish a central source for the Riders to ensure that chapters formed not as motorcycle clubs or gangs, but as Legionnaires and Auxiliary and SAL members joining to ride as Legion family. It worked like a charm when this became a popular and different way to interact as Legion family.
FROM RESOLUTION 35 AS VOTED ON BY THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE AMERICAN LEGION ON OCTOBER 17-18, 2007 AND AMENDED BY RESOLUTION 32 BY THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE AMERICAN LEGION ON MAY 4-5, 2011:
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.
Our American Legion Riders program is now 27 years old; It is continuing to be one of the fastest growing and most visible activities in the American Legion. Currently, over 110,000 American Legion Riders meet in over 2,200 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, Kansas, founded the Patriot Guard to protect the sanctity of military funerals from protesters. We ride to support veterans and children as well as our community.
The American Legion wants to ensure higher education is a possibility for children whose parents lost their lives while serving our country. Beginning with the 2017 award year, The American Legion expanded the scholarship to include children of VA-rated, post-9/11 veterans with a combined disability rating of 50 percent or higher. The American Legion and the Legion Riders offer support through the Legacy Scholarship Fund which provides money to those children that lost a parent who was killed in action.
Riders from all involved 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. Many Riders, supported by their departments, conduct annual statewide Legacy Runs in direct support of American Legion scholarship programs of Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW), supporting our wounded servicemembers across the nation.
True to the Legion and Riders 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 other 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. They ride to honor fallen military men and women, and to protect the sanctity of their funerals from those who would dishonor their memory as well as escorting military units to departure airfields and airports for combat tours overseas and welcoming them home upon their return.
THE AMERICAN LEGION RIDERS AT THE WALTON F. HOFFMANN MEMORIAL POST 179
It was in 2016 that an idea struck previous Post Commander 179 and ALR 245 member, Jerry Wray. He felt that the riders are a program that could be culled and created at his own American Legion post. Our founding members were few at first since we needed at least 8 members to start an American Legion Riders program under our own post umbrella. Those first founding members were Jerry Wray, Pete & Lee Johnson, Jay Grady, James Hollon, Mac Henry Pierre and Michael Webber. The buildup of members was slow but steady and we finally met the 8 numbers required to become ALR Post 179.
As I looked for the historical documentation of the newly formed Post 179 American Legion Riders, I was only able to find information dating back to May 2017. Initially, there were many positions that were left “open” or had acting officers and it was a real learning experience for those that were developing our ALR chapter from the ground up. In the May 2017 at the first formal meeting, we did not have a Sgt-at-Arms, Chaplain, Historian, or Member-at-Large and had just discussed our need to have a not for profit checking account. Basically, we were still feeling our way around on how to make this a thriving rider’s group. We continued to challenge ourselves and persevere.
By the June 2017 meeting, we had 8 new members (which strangely enough were called prospects in the minutes), and a new checking account with $105 in it. It was also at this meeting that our first Wurst Run was discussed, and dates were picked. The following month, July 2017, members resigned positions and found the position that suited them best, the riders created a Facebook page, and the Sons of the American Legion (S.A.L.) bought the riders the emblem that now hangs on the outside of our post today. As each month passed, more possible new members attended the meetings and a Wurst Run committee was started. By now, ALR 179 had 13 total members and all positions were all filled. In October 2017, we had 21 members and over $4K in the bank. As the months fly by, our riders have grown into 39 members and have a healthy bank balance that helps us help others under the legion and riders’ pillars of community service and giving back.
It wasn’t until 2019 that the American Legion Riders of Post 179 finally found stable footing and consistently started documenting our good works through our webpages, meeting minutes and our post newsletter, The Post Citizen. During the latter half of 2018 and beginning of 2019 alone, we hosted a Christmas Party, participated in the New Braunfels Christmas Parade, laying wreaths at the Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery but also had the honor of helping lay the POW/MIA Wreath during the opening ceremonies. We saluted Pamela Grady as rider of the year for her organizational skills, community ties, and her tireless efforts on the ALR fundraisers. We added the Fasching Run to our fundraisers for the year as well as increasing our presence at other ALR events in shows of comradeship and support.
We had several dances to include a Sock Hop and Swing Dance Party as well as supporting future military leaders in the various high school JROTCs. We sponsored a girls softball team, donated to Maria’s Closet to help homeless children, and continued to support Homes for our Troops. We decorated the post for Christmas and held a party for our children to sit on Santa Tom Hohmann’s lap.
As the year 2020 came into focus, little did we know how difficult a year it would be, both in our mission and our rider family. In the beginning of the year, we continued to support our community by donating to Operation Comfort and Reforged.org, both veteran charities. We rode in conjunction with our Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) brethren to present keys to wounded warriors who required specialty homes. While COVID 19 started to overwhelm our lives and activities, the ALR still tried to keep some normalcy in life by holding our elections, going on rides in the fresh air, Veterans Day dinner, Zoom meetings and even were able to hold our two main fundraisers, Fasching and Wurst Run, in order to keep supporting our community and its veterans as well as contribute to keeping our American Legion Post open (even if no one could visit us at that time).
As the year 2020 ended, the post and the riders lost too many people to count as the Coronavirus ran roughshod over our world. Yet, we continued on with brave faces and determination because we were needed by our community, our veterans, our post, and our family. It is now 2021, we hope that the new year will bring new challenges and opportunities to our Post and Riders group. We have had three ALR Directors: Mike Weber, Jay Grady, and Bob Wolff and three Rider’s of the Year: Pamela Grady (2108 & 2020) and Pete Johnson (2019) Check out our monthly Post newsletter “The Post Citizen”.