American Legion Social Media Manager Steve B. Brooks is following The American Legion Legacy Run, sponsored by USAA, for the fourth year.
6:15 a.m. – I've decided I'm not shaving my face until the Run ends. What had Sonny Crockett characteristics a day and a half ago will look like Zach Galifianakis by Houston.
7:15 a.m. – At the Riders briefing, Chief Road Captain Dick Woods reminds riders to “be aware of the cars and trucks around you. Don’t challenge cars and trucks.”
7:43 a.m. – We take off so that videographer Derek Tow and photographer Amy C. Elliott can get some shots from ahead of the Run. I listen to Howard Stern while trying to negotiate the Durango around the 240-plus motorcycles in the Comfort Suites parking lot. And both Derek and Amy make fun of me for ironing my clothes for today. Or make fun of me for mentioning that I ironed my clothes.
8:03 a.m. – It’s a bit cool – 62 degrees – and fog/mist is creeping around each side of 44 West. We find a cool spot along a densely wooded area on each side of the road. There’s part of a tire and some other car parts on the side of the road. I don’t know enough about car parts to identify what it is. Amy’s boots and jeans get wet from the dew on the weeds along the passenger side of the Durango. I know that because she says something about it.
8:26 a.m. – The Run goes by us. Honestly, with the fog rolling across the road, it’s a very cool shot. Check out the video to see for yourself.
9 a.m. – Along with more people waving flags and signs of support on overpasses, we start seeing signs for Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Fantastic Caverns, Catholic Radio and factory seconds walnut bowls. According to an online review, the Walnut Bowl Factory Story is "a great place to shop and one of lebanons attractions. factory seconds of picture frames, walnut bowls and more .” I’m still not sure what a walnut bowl is.
10:05 a.m. – We arrive at the Kum & Go in Springfield, Mo., for a gas stop. The attendants inside the Kum & Go are actually really nice. And very impressed with the Run.
10:22 a.m. – We pull into Post 639, which is an incredible posts. On its 25 acres, there is a camping area, a full baseball field, various war memorials and the sail from the USS Lapon, a nuclear submarine commissioned in 1967 and decommissioned in 1992. Missouri apparently has a huge contingent of submariner veterans, and a group effort brought the sail to the post in 2005. The periscope is missing, but the rest of the sail is fully operational. When the memorial was dedicated at the post in ’05, 50 members of its crew were in attendance. That’s pretty damn cool. (Editor’s note: Make sure to check out the gallery. I’m sure Amy got a good photo of it.)
10:28 a.m. – Several dignitaries are in attendance at the post, including Department of Missouri National Executive Committeeman Charley Goodin, Department Adjutant Lowry Finley-Jackson and Springfield Mayor Robert L. Stephens. “I’ve tried to be at all the events held here to honor our veterans because of the sacrifices they’ve made,” Stephens says. “The things that our veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and now the Middle East have done, we need to recognize those things.”
10:33 a.m. – Also in attendance is Past National Commander Tom Bock, under whose leadership the inaugural Legacy Run took place in 2006. “A group of Legion Riders came up to me after that first Run and said to me, ‘Commander, you can’t let this thing die,’” Bock says. “I said, ‘This thing now has a life of its own.’ And it does. It’s grown, and it continues to grow. It’s exciting to see.” That the Run has grown the way it has stands out to Bock. “Oh, I’m very impressed,” he says. “These Riders are super. When they set out to do something, they do it. They are great at raising money. I love what they do.”
10:45 a.m. – Post 639 Commander Bill Roark says volunteers were at the post at 4 a.m. to begin preparing the lunch of grilled chicken, beans and coleslaw. “This is a big deal to us,” he said. “We’ve been working on a plan for six months. We’ve coordinated with three different law-enforcement agencies. We’ve had Legion Riders from all over the state to help. It’s been a long process, but we’ve loved it.”
11:27 a.m. – Several different speakers take to Post 639’s covered stage, including State Rep. Charlie Davis, chairman of the state’s Committee on Veterans; Missouri Veterans Commission Executive Director Larry Kay. Stephens reaffirms his support for veterans; every speaker thanks all the Riders and every veteran in attendance for their sacrifices. Some of those veterans are from the Missouri Veterans Home in Mt. Vernon, Mo. “No one has shouldered more than those of you who have served,” Stephens says.
11:45 a.m. – Bock takes to the stage and gets a bit nostalgic. “I see some familiar faces out there,” he says. “God bless all of you for what you do.”
11:50 a.m. – Donations come in, including $5,100 from Post 259 in New York.
12:15 p.m. – On our way to the next gas stop, I’m convinced I’ve taken the wrong 60 West. I actually pull over at a gas station and ask how I can get to 69 South. “Just keep going and you’ll find it,” an elderly gentleman tells me. “Just go. That way.” Problem solved.
12:55 p.m. – The dozens of people lining each side of 60 West in Monett, Mo., tell me my guide was right. Legionnaires from Post 91 in Monett, ROTC participants and other students from nearby Scott Regional Tech Center, and Patriot Guard and Rolling Thunder members are out to support the Run. “I believe that it’s our responsibility, that everyone should be out here to support these veterans,” says 18-year-old ROTC student James Headrick. “We need to recognize what they’ve done for us and for everyone here in America.” Seventeen-year-old ROTC student Virginia Higdon agrees. “They served for us and have given us our freedom,” she says. “It’s our job to pay that back, and being out here today is one small way to pay that back.”
1:20 p.m. – Dayton Mackey, a longtime member of Post 91 in Monett, says that having the Run come through his town, “is tremendous. A lot of bikers go through here for rallies they have in Arkansas and other places. It’s great to have The American Legion come through here.”
1:31 p.m. – The Run arrives in Monett. The onlookers love it, waving American flags and exchanging quick high-fives with the riders as they pass.
? – At some point we pass into Oklahoma. I have no idea when. Along the way, Derek, Amy and I try to come out with our favorite bands and individual artists. My bands are easy: U2, REM and The Cure. Individual artists are more difficult. Frank Sinatra. After that, I scramble. Luckily, my issues with someone driving too slow in the left lane of 69 South shifts the conversation to my fast temper and colorful, creative language.
3:28 p.m. – The Run pulls into the Big Cabin Truck Plaza in Big Cabin, Okla. Another efficient refueling before heading 57 miles down U.S. 69 South – which turns into I-62 – to Muskogee for the night.
Today, the Run will make a stop at Post 231 in Springfield, Mo., before ending up in Stephensville, Texas.