Legacy Run Day 2: 'A little bit of wet weather is nothing'

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5:40 a.m. – Alarm goes off. Look outside. Raining even harder than Sunday.

7:15 a.m. – Driving along U.S. 460 East we see a two-car accident has shut down the lane heading back into Pikesville, Ky. Nostradamus-like, I say, “This may slow things down a little bit.”

9:06 a.m. – We (myself, Run photographer Tom Strattman and videographer Derek Tow) arrive at the Wal-Mart in Grundy, Va. Thanks to the kind folks at Wal-Mart, Post 164 in Grundy has turned the lower level of the store's parking garage into a welcome center/parking spot for the 300 motorcycles set to arrive.

9:10 a.m. – Post 164 Adjutant Les Clevinger says that when the pre-Run planning group came through Grundy in December, there were six inches of snow and ice on the ground. “But we told them if they’ll come back here, we’ll make sure to give them a meal,” Clevinger said.

9:16 a.m. – Clevinger and the rest of Post 164’s Legion family has delivered on his promise. Working from 2:30-9 p.m. Sunday and starting up again at 3 a.m. today, they have made breakfast sandwiches, laying them out with fruit, donuts, coffee and juice. Getting up early today was no big deal. “We’ll rest tomorrow,” says Betty Clevinger, an Auxiliary member and Les’ wife. Auxiliary Unit 164 President Shelia Sish adds that it’s an “absolute honor” to have the Run stop in Grundy.

9:58 a.m. – There’s a steady rain as the Run begins to pull into the parking garage.

10:02 p.m. – Todd Rider (an appropriate last name) of Post 289 in New York is dripping wet. But like everyone that I’ve talked to, it can always be worse. “It’s not too bad,” he says. “Going so slow kills your arms and back. But it’s worth it.”

10:25 a.m. – During the program, Grundy Town Manager James Keen praises the Legion for its service to veterans. Mayor Diann Blankenship reads a town resolution honoring the Run and Riders. Department Commander Gerald Rhoads thanks Post 164 for its hospitality. And Kemper Bausell, who spent three years playing in the band at Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., does a strong version of the national anthem on the trumpet.

10:40 a.m. – National Commander Dan Dellinger is wearing waterproof pants that he admits later aren’t very waterproof any longer. But, he says, “I don’t think there is one person out there who is doing any complaining about being wet – because of what you’re doing today for the children tomorrow.”

4:12 p.m. – As we pull into Post 3 in Salem, Va., we’re somewhat awe-struck. The solid brick building looks like a home overlooking a plantation. In fact, that’s what it was at one time. The plantation spanned more than 1,000 acres; Post 3 has hung onto 16 acres and lets the local volleyball league use the front part of the property to set up nets in exchange for providing lawn care for the post.

4:29 p.m. – Post 3 Commander Cecil Doss takes me on a tour of the post, pointing out that the first post commander was C. Francis Coke, who was in Paris for the Legion’s first caucus and then established the Department of Virginia. Doss said the post set up for the Run’s visit from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday and then started cooking at 9 a.m. today. “It’s an honor for it to stop at our post,” he says. “Raising money for these kids – that’s what The American Legion is for.” Doss also is proud of the fact that the post’s baseball team has won the district tournament the past two seasons; for his longtime involvement with area baseball, including as a coach, Doss will be inducted into the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

5:40 p.m. – The Run pulls into Post 3 and dines on Italian sausages, chips and cookies.

5:50 p.m. – Jim Fleming has been on all nine Legacy Runs and, as Texas department commander, helped lead the Run into his home state in 2013. He remembers worse rain – Oklahoma on the way to what he thinks was Phoenix – but never this much rain. “I’ve never seen anything like this.” Doesn’t mean he’s ready to call it quits. “You just keep going,” he says. “You think of the sacrifices made by the men and women, the reason we do this ride, and then you think a little bit of wet weather is nothing.”

6:19 p.m. – Bob Schnell, a member of Post 500 in Speedway, Ind., presents Dellinger with $100 that he says came from a man he hadn’t seen since 1966: Bill Blevins, who served with Schnell in the Navy and now lives in nearby Roanoke.

9 p.m. – The Run has arrived at Post 325 in Danville, Va., and is enjoying a fried chicken dinner. Community members, including school children, waited all night to greet the Run as it reached the city, waving flags and cheering in support of the Legion Riders.

9:10 p.m. – Post 325 Commander Kenny Fitzgerald, who started on the Run in Indianapolis, tells the crowd, “This is my second Legacy Run. I’m hooked.” Fitzgerald also says that he’s proud of the Riders and proud of his city for greeting the Run the way it did. “It was a little strange (coming back by his own post during the Run),” Fitzgerald tells me. “With the rain and the weather, you can think, ‘I’m just going to call it quits and go home.’ But no, I’m going the rest of the way.”

9:18 p.m. – The Riders join together to sing the close of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”

9:30 p.m. – Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders, himself a member of Post 29 in Danville, helped lead the Riders into the city. On stage at Post 325, he reads a proclamation which names Aug. 18, as American Legion Legacy Run Day.

9:39 p.m. – Rob Phelps, Virginia’s 6th District commander and a member of Post 325, has been with the Run since Indianapolis and has rode on six Runs so far. Seeing the sunshine between Salem and Danville – for the most part, the first time the dominant entity in our solar system has made an appearance since Sunday morning – was “a breath of fresh air,” Phelps said. He adds that bringing the Run to his post, “shows the rest of the post how much the Riders mean to us. The post is so good about supporting the Riders. This is a chance to show them why we do what we do.”

9:51 p.m. – More than $14,000 in donations are delivered at Post 325, bringing the total raised for this year’s Run so far to $295,000.


Today: After a breakfast and group photo at Dan Daniel Memorial Park in Danville, Va., the Run makes stops at Post 55 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Tilley Harley-Davidson in Statesville, N.C.

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