Monday should have been a perfect day for Sam Reeder. The director of American Legion Post 1451's Legion Riders chapter witnessed the culmination of seven months of work by the entire American Legion family at the post located in Sanborn, N.Y.
But Reeder's father passed away earlier Monday, putting a damper on what was a fine moment for him and his cohorts. Still, the man who helped organize Post 1451's role in this year's Legacy Run Home's National Commander's Ride was at the pre-ride rally, serving as emcee and taking it all in.
"Words can't describe how this feels," said Reeder, who was planning on going on his first Legacy Run but will only be able to travel part of the way before returning home. "It's really pretty overwhelming seeing how this all came together. It was a complete team effort. Every department within our post helped out."
Reeder said he got the call in January from National Headquarters that Post 1451 would serve as the launching point for this year's National Commander's Ride. The post organized several excursions to area attractions – including Niagara Falls – Aug. 18 and 19. The post also opened up its doors for Riders at night, providing meals and concerts. Monday night was a spaghetti dinner for the more than 350 Ride participants.
"Everyone at the post bought into this from the start," Reeder said. "The best part was that nobody ever said, ‘We can't do this.' Everyone wanted to make this a success. We saw members we hadn't seen in years coming in to help."
Reeder said he breathed a sigh of relief as the night's events came to an end. "But it's not at all because we're glad this is over," he said. "It's because it's a sense of accomplishment."
During the evening – which saw more than $40,000 donated to this year's Legacy Run – American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong joked that, since all 50 states were represented by Riders, it would make more sense for the national commander to simply visit the Legacy Run, rather than visiting all 50 states. "I'd like to see one of you guys put together that resolution," Wong said.
On a more serious note, Wong – who is traveling with the Ride this week – praised Legion Riders for their efforts in bringing in $3 million for the Legacy Fund since its inception. "Within the Legion family, the Legion has the (National Emergency Fund)," Wong said. "The Sons of The American Legion takes care of the Child Welfare Foundation. And the Legion Riders take care of the Legacy Fund."
Other guests at the post included New York State Sen. George D. Maziarz, American Legion Past National Commander Tom Cadmus, Department of New York Commander Timothy S. Van Patten, National Executive Committeeman Charles I. Herschlag, various other district and county commanders, and a Hamburg, N.Y. resident Nick Stone, an OEF veteran who lost a leg when a nearby fellow soldier hit an IED in Afghanistan.
Also present was Melissa Lammerts, the widow of Army Staff Sgt. Michael S. Lammerts of Amherst, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in April 2011. Melissa brought her two young children – Savannah, 5, and Michael, 3 – with her to the event. "Those are two future recipients of the Legacy Scholarship Fund," Reeder said.
The run makes a stop at Niagara Falls and another stop in Salamanca, N.Y., at Post 535, before ending tonight in Vermilion, Ohio, at Post 397. Follow the National Commander's Ride on legion.org and on the National American Legion Riders Facebook page .