Legionnaire Rollie Otte rode his Harley Davidson nearly 800 miles Aug. 16-17 to get to Indianapolis, just so he could ride another 1,200 miles through Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia before ending up in Louisville.
Why? Because Otte, one of 251 motorcyclists who pulled into Highland Post 201 in Louisville on Friday afternoon, believes in the Legacy Run and The American Legion Legacy Scholarship fund. The fund provides scholarship money for the children of servicemembers killed on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
"Our children are the ones who are going to be taking care of our country in the future. We need to take care of them," said Otte, a member of Post 85 in Columbus, Neb. "We want to make sure these kids get a college education. These kids deserve to go to college."
The run netted nearly $156,000 in donations heading into Louisville; more than $92,000 followed during a ceremony at Post 201, and more is expected to come on the floor of the convention. The goal for this year is $400,000; the Legacy Scholarship fund has accrued more than $3 million – including $1 million from the first three Legacy Runs.
"We have a phrase in the military: ‘Look out for your buddy,'" Otte said. "We're looking out for their children."
American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein participated in part of the ride and was waiting at Post 201 when the riders began to pull into the parking lot.
"The distances these people have ridden just to get here. One of these folks – it will take him three days just to get home," Rehbein said. "Beyond just the money that they raise, the time they spend to participate is amazing."
While addressing the riders, Rehbein referred to a particular college student who has received a Legacy Scholarship. "I have met that young man, and I can tell you that he is grateful every day he steps foot at his college," he said. "All I can say to you is ‘thank you.' You don't know how much it means, what you are doing."