Jody Brown didn’t know what to expect with turnout for American Legion Riders Chapter 341’s fifth annual “Battle Ride” for charity due to social distancing measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But what greeted him on the morning of June 20 outside of Post 341 in Cicero, Ind., “was so exciting.”
About 118 motorcycles, along with a few Jeeps and trikes, with more than 150 riders and passengers were waiting in the post’s parking lot to ride 115 miles to support a good cause – The American Legion Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program.
“The majority of them showed up because they believe in our cause,” said Brown, Post 341’s commander and Riders director. “This is something Dave (Baughman) and I have been very passionate about, our whole (Riders) group has been – passionate about trying to reach wounded veterans who are experiencing post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury and see if we couldn’t do something to help.”
The Riders chose OCW as their cause to support for the annual Battle Ride because 100 percent of donations go directly toward providing comfort items, rehabilitation equipment and more for U.S. veterans recovering in military hospitals and transition units. And the outcome of their Battle Ride resulted in $5,010 for the program.
“Our most successful year,” said Baughman, a Chapter 341 Rider and assistant adjutant for the Department of Indiana. “You give motorcyclists a reason to ride his (or her) motorcycle and for a great cause … this shows what can happen. This is the easiest way to get our name out there and be out there in front of people, too.”
Donations came from the cost to ride of $20 a motorcycle, where Legion Riders often gave more; a 50/50 drawing where the winner gave back his earnings of nearly $300; a $450 donation from Sons of The American Legion Squadron 341; raffle drawing for two gift cards; and donations from those who couldn’t make it.
“We are really excited to be part of the OCW family in the regard to be able to put on this event,” Brown said.
Brown and Baughman followed the state of Indiana’s re-opening guidelines when it came to scheduling the date for the ride. Several ride participants wore masks. Other social-distancing measures were followed to ensure the safety of everyone at the start and end of the ride, and during stops that included two American Legion posts. The ride started at 10 a.m., and ended at 4 p.m., with breakfast provided by Auxiliary Unit 341 members, a fundraiser they use to sponsor a local high school student to Hoosier Girls State.
Brown started the Riders chapter six years ago that has grown from nine to 65 members.
American Legion Riders “are passionate. They love to ride. And there’s something about many bikers that they tend to have bigger hearts,” Brown said. “They love the cause, especially if it’s for children or veterans … they really rally around that. And they tend to be very patriotic.
“They are very supportive of veterans and veterans causes. It’s been such a privilege and an honor for me to have been involved with the Legion for as many years (14) as I have, and to do whatever I can on my part to support our veterans and our Legion Riders. They are amazing in what they accomplish.
“We really are a family. We stand together for things that we believe are really right and good for our country.”
The American Legion Department of Indiana presented a $5,000 OCW grant in early June to help cover the operating budget for the Greenhouse Garden Project at the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System. The grant was presented to VA licensed practical nurse Aaron Robinson who saved the greenhouse from being razed and now uses it as a way for patients, including veterans with mobility issues, housed in the Veteran Community Living Center and the Mental Health Inpatient units to get outside and become active.
The patients plant tomatoes, peppers, green beans, squash, zucchini and cucumbers that are used to prepare fresh meals for the veterans.
“(The OCW grant) takes a big weight off my chest. Because I’m always worried, always trying to find things on sale, trying to find every resource I can possibly find to cover what I need to have done,” Robinson said.