What started as an idea to bring Veterans Day to local communities unable to conduct ceremonies because of the coronavirus turned into around 100 motorcycles riding through parts of California to honor the state’s veterans, thanks to efforts of some California American Legion Riders.
Members of California’s Districts 9 and 10 Legion Riders staged the Veterans Day ride, which Post 117 Legionnaires and District 10 ALR Director David Leavitt said drew around 100 motorcyclists – the majority being American Legion Riders.
“It went great,” Leavitt said. “It was beyond everything I expected it to be. This was the only opportunity we had (to observe Veterans Day), in lieu of the fact we can’t have parades or anything like that. Being on motorcycles, we can gather.
“We flew the flags. We rode through all the downtown areas. People were smiling, waving, happy to see us. It was really amazing.”
The Riders rode through Oakley, Antioch, Pittsburg, Concord, Martinez, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Danville, Pleasanton and Livermore, with quick stops at the Martinez VA Medical Center and the Palo Alto VA Medical Center-Livermore.
Leavitt said some patients at the Martinez VAMC came outside to watch the Riders parade around the facility. “Those guys inside the VA hospitals … are pretty much on lockdown,” he said. “It was not only heart-warming to see them. It was kind of like tearful.
“We’re lucky enough that we have motorcycles and we can do this. Everybody else doesn’t have the opportunity to do it like we do. We’re just proud to be able to do it.”
The following are a few more examples of how American Legion Family members across the nation observed Veterans Day.
• Hollywood Post 43 observed Veterans Day with a Hollywood Legion Theater Drive-In showing of “Good Morning, Vietnam” that doubled as the start of a month-long food drive for Food on Foot, a nonprofit that supports the homeless and low-income residents with food, clothing, and life-skills education, full-time employment and permanent housing. “Our presentation of ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ is a celebration of veterans everywhere,” Legion Theater Director Bill Steele said via press release. “We are proud to be able to bring the public and veterans together during a pandemic and honor those who have served our country, in war and peace.”
• In Los Angeles, Eugene Arnold Obregon American Legion Post 804 joined with Los Angeles County First District Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and others for a Veterans Day ceremony streamed live via Facebook.
American Legion Post 291 honored Taylor County veterans with a dinner on Nov. 8 and also helped line the streets of Steinhatchee with crosses and flags to honor local veterans.
Members of Hays American Legion Riders Chapter 173 led a Nov. 6 Veterans Day parade conducted by students at Roosevelt Elementary School, who made signs and waved flags as local veterans drove along a veterans parade. COVID-19 concerns forced the cancellation of the school’s annual Veterans Day dinner and program at the school.
"The way I look at it is us veterans went and served our country so children and the people nowadays can have that right to get out here and honor us," Chapter 173 Director Ray Palmer told the Hays Post. “I am proud they can still do that and be a free country because of the sacrifice of the veterans and the people who did not come back from war have given."
Weehawken American Legion Post 18 conducted multiple Veterans Day ceremonies and then spent the rest of the day doing Buddy Checks on area veterans.
In Chaves County, American Legion Post 28 and Norman E. Harpole Post 61 organized a Nov. 7 ceremony at the Chaves County Courthouse that was attended by dozens of community members.
The ceremony included a convoy from the courthouse to the Wool Bowl, as well as the reading of the names of the 12 Chaves County residents who died in the Korean War.
“With the COVID-19 situation, everyone is anxious to come out and back to our traditional values,” Post 61 Commander Stephen Lee told the Roswell Daily Record. “Veterans always have been held closely to heart in Roswell, and it warms my heart to see so many people here.”
In Lake Placid, American Legion Post 326 observed Veterans Day with a series of flag ceremonies Nov. 11 that took place at various locations and honored local veterans. Local residents were allowed to observe the ceremonies while adhering to social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
Canton American Legion Post 61 joined with cadets from the Pisgah Navy Junior ROTC and Tuscola’s Air Force Junior ROTC to erect U.S. flags and cross memorials in Sorrells Park in Canton. More than 100 flags and cross memorials were set up this year.
• Edgar M. Boyd Post 37 in Williston teamed up with Cherry Creek Media to host a virtual Veterans Day ceremony that was streamed live on the post’s Facebook page and 660 KEYZ. Post 37 Adjutant Dan Brown told the Williston Herald that the post wanted to do something to honor local veterans despite the ongoing pandemic. "These are our veterans, it's who we support, it's what we do." he said. "We do everything we can to let them know that we're still here for them, and that their service is appreciated."
• In Bismarck, the annual Veterans Day ceremony had to be altered because of the pandemic and was moved outdoors at the All Veterans Memorial on the Capitol Grounds. The ceremony included the ringing of a bell 11 times at 11 a.m. and was live streamed via American Legion Lloyd Spetz Post No. 1’s Facebook page. "We didn't want to totally cancel everything," Post 1 Commander Janette Fetch told the Bismarck Tribune.
• In Hilliard, the Veterans Day parade was cancelled but William R. Schnug Memorial Post 614 continued its tradition of a free ham and beans meal, this year allowing only carryout. Any donations collected from the meal go to the Gifts for Yanks program that helps support veterans in VA hospitals and veterans homes.
• In Dublin, the city teamed up with Wesley G. Davids Dublin Post 800 for a virtual ceremony that was shared via the city’s website and through social media.
• In Beech Creek, American Legion Post 623 joined with PA Skill and Jack Houser Amusement to provide 600 free hoagies to veterans and their guests via a COVID-safe drive-thru system.
• In Tamaqua, American Legion C.H. Berry Post 173 sponsored its annual Veterans Day ceremony, with attendees observing social distancing and wearing masks in the process. Post members led ceremonies at the Rahn Township Memorial and the post’s veterans memorial, reading aloud the names of veterans who’ve passed away during the past year.
• In Kingston, American Legion Black Diamond Post 395 and Kingston VFW Anthracite Post 283 sponsored a pre-Veterans Day parade that was viewed by hundreds of socially distanced, mask-wearing spectators.
• On Nov. 8 in Northumberland, American Legion Post 44 and the Boy Scouts teamed up for a Veterans Day program in Riverview Cemetery. Past Post 44 Commander and current 17th District Commander Richard Simpson read the names of local veterans who have died in the past year. Post 44 has been conducting a Veterans Day ceremony for at least 54 years.
In Warren, American Legion Post 104 and its Auxiliary, Unit 11, have turned Veterans Day into an assistance effort. On Nov. 14, Legion Family members will lead an effort to provide clothing items, hygiene products, stamps, gift cards and comfort items to the 175 residents of the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol and 30 other veterans who live in local nursing homes.
The groups also asked for thank-you cards to provide to the veterans, in addition to the other items. “They are things that most of us take for granted and have plenty of,” Unit 11 President Judy Fardig told the Providence Journal. “We don’t stop to think how others may need it.
“Nothing would be more appropriate or appreciated during this pandemic than a ‘Thinking-of-You’ card. We need to let them know they have not been forgotten.”
• On Nov. 7, American Legion Post 44 kicked off a new tradition by dedicating 175 white crosses and flags that will be placed around Winchester to honor local deceased veterans. Home Depot is sponsoring the program.
• In Coffee County, the second annual Veterans Day Parade – sponsored by the Coffee County Veterans Association of which American Legion Gold Post 78 is a member – included other veterans service organizations, as well as JROTC units.
In Cleburne, American Legion Post 50’s Legion Family staged a drive-by parade to honor the veterans living at six area nursing homes, getting participation from area law enforcement and first responders, and local residents and organizations.
“Our veterans deserve recognition for their sacrifices and their service to our country,” American Legion Auxiliary Past State President and current Unit 50 member Marty Peters told the Cleburne Times Review. “Those confined to facilities have been lonely during this COVID-19 pandemic and need to know how important they are to all of us.”
In South Boston, Legionnaires took part in the Veterans Day Celebration. Department of Virginia Fifth District Commander Jimmy Burress said seeing the crowd at the ceremony “makes a veteran's heart beat better to know that somebody cares." He also reminded attendees of the high suicide rate among veterans, urging Buddy Checks on fellow veterans. “Tell veterans directly that you love them, that you appreciate them and you are grateful for their service," Burress said during the ceremony. “It’s up to us to ensure that every veteran feels that his or her service to this country is appreciated by their fellow Americans. There are many tangible ways that we could acknowledge their sacrifice but the easiest is simply to say thank you for what you have done for our country.”
Members of the American Legion Post 8’s honor guard provided a rifle volley during the celebration.
• In Superior, American Legion Post 435 and the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center conducted a Flag of Remembrance ceremony on Nov. 11. Members of the public attended, adhering to social distancing guidelines and wearing face coverings, while others could watch the ceremony streamed live.
• In Milwaukee, Wisconsin American Legion Riders provided a salute to veterans in advance of Veterans Day, staging a parade for veterans at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. Dozens of motorcycles and trucks took part in the parade at the facility, which had to cancel its annual Veterans Day ceremony. “We were very honored and happy to jump on board,” Wisconsin Legion Rider Tracy Stefanski told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We enjoy doing this stuff, especially for veterans. We love to honor them.”