American Legion Social Media Manager Steve B. Brooks is following The American Legion Legacy Run, sponsored by USAA, for the fourth year.
7:41 a.m. – It’s 72 degrees already at the Stephensville City Park in Texas, and several riders are going sleeveless. Riders are applying sunscreen. The previous day’s temperatures in the mid-90s are the cause.
7:48 a.m. – Group G Road Captain George Guthrie of Post 192 in Evans, Ga., is urging his riders to drink plenty of water along today’s leg. “You’ve got to be on the weather,” he says. “We’re all adults, and we know how to figure out what it’s going to be like and how to prepare. Being a redhead, I know I need to put on sunscreen.”
7:52 a.m. – Guthrie plays what sounds like Madison Rising’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Riders engaged in conversation begin to stop talking; many raise their right hands to their chests.
8 a.m. – The Run leaves the park. I’ve been to a fair amount of Indianapolis 500s, and the Run leaving en masse carries a similar feeling to the opening pace lap of the 500.
8:15 a.m. – We’re on our way to Seguin, Texas, which photographer Amy Elliott says claims to have the largest pecan in the world. However, Amy says, Brunswick, Mo., actually owns that claim to fame and has sent several pictures of its pecan to Seguin. “They won’t acknowledge the pictures,” Amy says, a hint of disappointment in her voice.
9:35 a.m. – The Run pulls into Gainesville, Texas, for a gas stop. Thankfully, dark clouds have kept the temps at around 84 so far.
11:20 a.m. – The 218 motorcycles pull into the Killeen (Texas) Civic Center parking lot. About the same time, dozens of wounded warriors from the Fort Hood Warrior Transition Battalion also arrive. The two groups immediately become engaged in conversations.
11:30 a.m. – National Commander James Koutz has made Operation Comfort Warriors his pet project, and today, more than $7,000 worth of sporting goods will be presented to Fort Hood in accordance with the program. “There are probably some Legion Riders who don’t know about Operation Comfort Warriors, so this is a great chance to let them know what the program is all about and what we’re doing for soldiers like those at Fort Hood,” Koutz says.
11:52 a.m. – USAA, the sponsor of this year’s Legacy Run, also has paid for today’s lunch of brisket, sausage, potato salad, beans and cheesecake. USAA’s Glenda Oakley, the daughter of military parents and herself an Army veteran, presents Koutz with a check for $40,000 for the Legacy Run. “Thank you for embarking on this important mission for the children of our fallen comrades to ensure that they receive a college education,” she tells the riders.
Noon – An announcement is made that ALR t-shirts – courtesy of Post 177 in Fairfax, Va. – are available free to Fort Hood soldiers. The demand is pretty large.
12:10 p.m. – Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin, a member of Post 233 in Killeen and the immediate past department commander for Texas, says Killeen is the perfect city to host a Legacy Run stop. “We have the largest percentage of veterans in any city in the country,” he says. “Something like this really brings out the patriotism here.”
12:25 p.m. – Sammy Granderson, a Legion Rider from Post 221 in Caroline County, Va., has spent several minutes talking with a Fort Hood solider. “It makes you appreciate even more what these guys are doing,” Granderson says. “On previous Runs I’ve never had a chance to talk with a wounded soldier before. I think we need more of that. It shows me that we have to continue what we’re doing to make sure things are better for these guys when they come home.”
3:07 p.m. – On the drive to Seguin, Amy and I discuss our favorite actors/actresses in lower-budget films – and I end up missing our turn. I turn to Apple Maps, which first attempts to send me down a dead end and then into a deserted field.
5 p.m. – Folks begin to show up along every corner of Kingsbury Street in Seguin, awaiting the Run’s arrival at Post 245.
5:15 p.m. – District 14 Commander Reno Riley, Post 245’s recently formed ALR chapter president, is busy taking phone calls in the post’s parking lot while waiting for the Run to show up. “To have the Run stop here means a lot to us,” he says. “I’ve known about the Legacy Run for a number of years, but I didn’t know that much about it. I’ve learned a lot, and it’s a real honor to have it come here – especially since we now have a Legion Riders chapter here.”
5:21 p.m. – The Run arrives, including Lisa Harter, a member of Post 490 and resident of League City, Texas – the final stop on the Run. Lisa participated in the Run for the first time, riding alongside her husband Ronald. “It was everything I expected and a little bit more,” Lisa says. “Getting to know all the people has been wonderful. And I can’t hardly wait to ride into my own town.”
5:40 p.m. – National Commander Koutz stands outside the post talking to a young man in a wheelchair and obviously missing both legs. The young man, Joshua Stein, is a U.S. Army veteran who lost his legs when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an IED in Iraq in 2006. Stein is sitting next to a Harley-Davidson that he has adapted so he still can ride. “It’s like a dream come true being able to still ride,” he says. Stein heard about the Run coming through Seguin from a local Harley dealer. “This is crazy,” he says, pointing the 200-plus motorcycles in the parking lot. “When I heard about this, I had to be here.”
5:56 p.m. – The Run picked up a special guest today in retired Marine Harold Overstreet, who served from 1966 to 1995 and spent 1991-1995 as the 12th command sergeant major of the U.S. Marines. “I support a lot of veterans organizations, and any time I have an opportunity like this I want to take it,” says Overstreet, who lives close to Seguin. “I think that it’s great that The American Legion is doing something like this, and I’m for anything like this.”
6:05 p.m. – Overstreet and various city/state officials are introduced, and then Koutz gets the microphone. “There is a group out there that spends time making sure the route is OK, that goes over the gas stops, that does everything to set up this ride,” he says. “And we don’t ever say thank you to them. I want every one of those people to stand up who has helped put this ride together.” They stand up, and a nice applause follows.
6:13 p.m. – Joshua Stein is introduced to the crowd. “When I got my house, you guys led an escort to it,” he tells the Riders. “I’ll see you all out there now.”
6:22 p.m. – Donations come in – including one big, but not-so-unexpected one. Converse Post 593, located just outside of San Antonio, delivers a $30,000 check. The post has donated more than $200,000 to the Legacy Fund since the Run began. That brings the total raised so far to more than $290,000.
6:47 p.m. – Head back to the hotel to participate in an online live fantasy football draft. After one pick, I hate my team.
Today, the Run comes to a conclusion at League City Post 554 in Texas.