Sarah Parsons West, Photo
‘All of our funds go directly into serving veterans in need.’
ST. ALBANS — The American Legion Riders of Green Mountain Post #1, St. Albans, has a busy summer schedule of fund raising, charity rides and rallies, most of which take place from the saddle of their motorcycles.
There’s just one concern. They wish there were more of them to carry out the service-oriented work that drives them.
The American Legion Riders is a nationally recognized program of the American Legion and holds 106,000 members at posts throughout the nation. The Legion Riders of Post #1 currently has less than 30 members.
“Our numbers are starting to dwindle due to the aging of riders and a lack of available time for others to do the type of charity work we do,” explains Ray LaRocque, director of The Legion Riders of Green Mountain Post #1.
The Legion Riders participate in parades, such as the Vermont Maple Festival and partner with other organizations for larger rides such as the Toy Run in Montpelier and the Vt. Rolling Thunder, which rolled through town on Memorial Day.
Locally and nationally, some Legion Riders participate in the Patriot Guard, riding to honor fallen men and women and to protect the sanctity of their funerals from those who might dishonor their memory.
Not all rides are for a cause, the group does ride for pure enjoyment and fellowship, gathering at the post two Sunday’s each month for breakfast followed by their Sunday Ride.
The misconception is that The American Legion is for the older generation of veterans alone. The Legion offers membership to veterans of eligible war eras, active duty servicemen and women; as well as family members of veterans through the Son’s of the American Legion (SAL) and the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA).
Through these extensions of the Legion, any son, mother, daughter, sister or grandchild of an honorable veteran is eligible to join. Although the SAL and ALA hold their own memberships, these organizations are not separate entities, rather programs of the American Legion.
Ray LaRocque agrees that helping veterans and raising awareness are the true goals of all Legion activities, “We are the greatest voice for veterans. The Legion helps fight for veterans, for their rights and healthcare benefits.”
The Legion Riders chapters are well known for their charitable work, raising money for children’s hospitals, veteran homes and local veterans in need.
Charity aside, The Legion Riders promote motorcycle safety, and plan to take a public role in motorcycle awareness throughout the county, drawing a larger presence to their own organization within the community.
LaRocque has created a website for The Legion Riders and plans to implement a mentor-like camaraderie as new members join.
“The best thing we can do is to listen to their needs,” Ralph Lemnah, says of new members and those interested in joining The Legion Riders. He adds, “There are no admin costs for The Riders so all of our funds go directly into serving veterans in need.”
Lemnah is a 12-year Legion member and one of three remaining charter members of The Legion Riders of Post #1, along with Phil LaCross and Michael Allard, who applied for the charter to create the Post #1 Legion Riders in 2008.
Six years later, the group continues to share the roads, as well as personal interests and values. They have similar pasts and preserved memories only veterans of wartime can share. They also are bonded by their dedication to public service and a desire to keep riding off into the sunset.
On the Horizon
The Legion Riders of Post #1 and partners will be hosts for a Vermont Fallen Families Ride on Sunday, Aug. 3, gathering before the ride in St. Albans. The journey will cover 100 miles through Vermont in support of service men and women wounded in action. In October, the Legion will host a ‘Welcome Home Veterans’ open house for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.