Paying their respects, raising some money

View Photo Gallery

American Legion Social Media Manager Steve B. Brooks is following The American Legion Legacy Run, sponsored by USAA, for the fourth year.

5:45 a.m. – Alarm goes off in my room at the Hampton Inn near the Indianapolis airport. I immediately miss my wife, dog and bed. Look at the TV and realize that Peter Griffith has transformed into Al Bundy. What happens when you go to bed watching “Family Guy.”
7:20 a.m. – At the morning briefing at Kenneth N. Dowden Wayne Post 64, Chief Road Captain Dick Woods asks how many newcomers there are to the Run. Around eight hands go up in the air. Woods then goes over the procedure at gas stops and on maintaining caution on the first 20-30 minutes of the Run. “Your heart is racing,” Woods says. “But remember that every one of us needs to do our part to make this as safe as possible and to make it as perfect as possible.”
7:40 a.m. – Joe Gladden, a member of ALR Chapter 130 in Maryland – and the leading candidate for Sons of The American Legion national commander – is on his first Legacy Run. “There’s excitement,” Gladden says, describing the minutes leading up to the start of the ride. “But if I’m elected, I’m going to make the Legacy Scholarship Fund my pet project. I feel it’s important to experience the Run. It’s important that if you’re going to ask people to do something, you need to experience it first yourself.”
7:57 a.m. – Dick Woods blows his horn. Anyone not on their bike is on it within seconds.
8:02 a.m. – The Run pulls out of Post 64, nearly 250 motorcycles strong.
8:20 a.m. – Supporters stand along various overpasses along I-70 – a sign of things to come.
8:35 a.m. – A rabbit runs out in front of the right front tire of the Dodge Durango I’m driving. The tire hits it.
8:58 a.m. – Arrive at a gas stop in Greenup, Ill. Fastest 114 miles I’ve ever driven? No. Central Daylight Time. We’ve now gained an hour. Though by now I’m sure I’ve wasted that hour.
9:50 a.m. – Pull into Effingham, Ill., at Post 120, which is serving up grilled pork chops, coleslaw and beans.
10:11 a.m. – Post 120 Commander Bob Reisner said the post learned from the last time it hosted a Legacy Run stop, which was during the 2010 ride to Milwaukee. “This isn’t our first rodeo,” he says. “Two months ago we started meeting about this, and it’s really been ongoing. We probably have 20-25 people working here today. But we feel honored, knowing that they chose to stop here again.”
10:25 a.m. – The Run arrives at Post 120. Twenty minutes later, a post member says, “We need more bread. I’ve got to go to IGA.”
10:55 a.m. – Donations start to come in, including $10,000 from Post 133 in Millbrook, Ala. More than $96,000 already has been raised for the Legacy Scholarship Fund.
1:22 p.m. – At the Troy, Ill., gas stop, Kay Groves of nearby Post 30 in Olney mans one of the pumps. A veteran of past Legacy Runs, she’s always impressed by the efficiency in which nearly 250 motorcycles can be gassed up so quickly. “It comes down to access,” she says. “You’ve got to make sure there is enough room for everyone. You’ve got to make sure everyone is ready and has their money out, and then you round up to the next dollar to move people through quickly. It’s unbelievable how it works.”
2 p.m. – Enter Missouri and see Legion Riders, other Legion family members and local citizens lining the highway overpasses, hanging signs of support and American flags. Four Runs in and I still think that it’s very cool.
2:57 p.m. – I make a “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” reference and photographer Amy C. Elliott is all over it. She loves the song. So do I. Really, who doesn’t? If you’re not sure, click here to decide.
4:40 p.m. - Several people are on the overpass over I-44 West along North Jefferson Street in St. James, Mo., including Patriot Guard members and a local fire truck. Several hold more U.S. flags.
4:48 p.m. – Amy and I spot a flattened armadillo on Jefferson Street. I go back, take a picture with my phone, send it to Peter Gaytan – executive director of the Legion’s Washington office – and post it to Facebook. Gaytan thinks it's hilarious; my sister sees it and thinks it’s nasty. Different strokes,
4:57 p.m. – The Run begins to arrive at the Missouri Veterans Home. Dinner of barbecue chicken, hot dogs, bratwursts and hamburgers – along with beans, potato salad and cookies – awaits them.
5:30 p.m. – Steve Cummings, a Legion Rider from Post 288 in Williamsburg, Ohio, stops to talk with World War II Merchant Marine and Korean War Army veteran Bob Klem, a resident at the veterans home. For Klem, it’s a fun visit. “I think this is great,” Klem says, motioning to the hundreds of motorcycles around 20 feet from him. “It really breaks up the monotony around here.” For Cummings, it’s a chance to pay back. “My dad was a World War II veteran,” Cummings says. “I felt I just needed to talk to (Klem) to pay some respects. That doesn’t happen enough.”
5:42 p.m. – Robert Hawn, Sr., a member of Post 607, based out of the veterans home, and District 16’s commander, welcomes the Run. So does veterans home director Mark Fontana. “Thank you all for riding for such a great cause,” Fontana says. “We believe we have the greatest cause of all here: providing a great quality of life for all our veterans.”
5:46 p.m. – Mark Clark, Missouri’s ALR chairman, can’t help but feel a little proud of the reception the Run got in his state. “We have Riders here who are passionate for all things American Legion,” he says. “They really rolled out the red carpet today.”
5:51 p.m. – National Commander James Koutz – who rode on the back of Past SAL National Commander Earl Ruttkofsky’s trike today – has stopped at several overpasses today to hand out his commander’s pins. He accepts more than $19,000 in donations at the veterans home, bringing the total so far to more than $119,000.
6:10 p.m. – Back to the Comfort Suites. Free Chili Cheese Fritos await.