Legion Riders ride through Georgia after stops in North Carolina during Day 4 of the Legacy Run. (Photo by Tom Strattman)

Legacy Run Day 4: All in the family and a very special vest

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7:41 a.m. – A Rider lost his hat on the way out of the Harley-Davidson stop on Tuesday. I grabbed it on the way out of the parking lot and am able to track down the owner: Lee Johnson. He thanks me. Yes, I saved a hat today.

8:18 a.m. – We drive through Shelby, N.C. A welcome sign reads “Home of The American Legion World Series.” Pretty cool.

8:21 a.m. – Run videographer Derek Tow finds a bug crawling on his cap and shows it to photographer Tom Strattman and I. “Is this a bedbug?” Tow asks. Strattman flinches; I tell Derek to throw it out the window.

9:14 a.m. – Derek emails a friend a picture of a second bug he finds. It’s a tick. We’re all a bit relieved.

9:59 a.m. – We pull over on the side of U.S. 74 to get photos and videos of the Run approaching. A police officer pulls over and asks if we’re OK. Nicest folks here.

10:50 a.m. – The Run arrives at Post 47 in Waynesville, N.C. Two fire trucks hoist large American flags, creating an arch for the riders to enter the post parking lot underneath. The post is along the outside of woods full of pine trees. The large wooden shelter along the woods was just completed last Saturday. There’s also a stage outside, complete with a sound system. Pink Floyd, Smashing Pumpkins and The Grateful Dead are among the music selections. So is Boyz II Men.

10:55 a.m. – Kimbra Messer, a member of the post’s Auxiliary unit and a Legion Rider, says “tons of planning” went into preparing for the Run’s stop. “This is awesome,” she says. “It’s such an honor for us to host this.”

11:09 a.m. – Lunch is being served: homemade pulled pork, coleslaw and baked beans. The meat, some 200 pounds of pork butts, was smoked for 14 hours by Chuck Rector, a Post 47 Legion Rider, the son of post commander Ken Rector and the owner of Blue Ridge BBQ Place. “We’re absolutely honored to have these guys come by,” Chuck says. “We’re really glad they came by and we could feed them.”

11:31 a.m. – Joe Lemanek, Post 47’s Riders historian, says the post has been planning for the Run stop for four months. “The Riders are a bunch of good people, so it’s great to have them stop by and meet them,” he says.

11:45 a.m. – Jon and Beth Gohr of Post 132 in New Ulm, Minn., are on their third Legacy Run. They still get impressed by the hospitality they receive during stops at posts along the ride. “It just gets you,” says Beth, holding her chest. “It’s just a good, warm feeling.” “You know it’s a good place when you go to a Legion post,” Jon adds.

Noon – Sharon Ruckle of Post 47 in Bradenton, Fla., does a strong job on the national anthem; a little bit later she sings her own song, “Tribute – A Military Anthem.”

12:05 p.m. – Taking the stage, Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown is blunt. “Land of the free, home of the brave,” he says to the Riders. “You want to know the reason why that is? I’m looking at it. If you want to see someone important, look next to you.”

2:45 p.m. – The Run makes a stop at Habersham Hills Cinemas 6 in Mt. Airy, Ga. Habersham County Post 84 is there to provide drinks. It’s a proud moment for a post that was chartered in 1920, lost that charter in 2005 and then reformed in 2010. “This is a great chance to meet all the folks on the ride and support them,” Post 84 Commander Larry DeVergar says. “We’re trying to make it work again here, and this is a good moment for us.”

4:29 p.m. – At Post 127 in Buford, Ga., Mark Gosney of the Run’s advance team goes over the parking plan for the 242 bikes coming into the post. With all the stops this week, he and his crew have parked thousands of motorcycles. “It’s hectic, and it’s a challenge, to be honest,” he says. “Getting all the bikes parked isn’t a problem. It’s the lack of time to get it done. You have to make quick decisions.” Gosney says it also takes a strong team to get the job done. “You’ve got to have people willing to work and listen, and not question what you want done,” he says.

4:35 p.m. – Post 127 Commander Steve Adams calls having the Run stop at his post a “once in a lifetime” event. He also tells me about his post – which is impressive, to say the least. It’s on 33 acres and includes eight baseball fields that the post leases out to the city. Behind the post is a patio, veranda and a stage. It almost feels like a country club, sans the golf course and pretention.

4:46 p.m. – Harold Barnett, a past Georgia department commander and the leading candidate for 2015-2016 American Legion national commander, drove an hour and 15 minutes to greet the Run. He’s joined by Department Commander Randy Goodman and National Executive Committeeman Charles Wessinger, as well as other Georgia Legionnaires. “It’s important we support all the things The American Legion Riders do for the Legacy Fund,” Barnett says.

4:48 p.m. – The Run arrives, greeted by a slew of Georgia Legionnaires holding American flags.

5:02 p.m. – Ken Long is on his first Legacy Run. The Post 610 Legionnaire from Brook Park, Ohio, isn’t the only one making his ride debut. His daughter, Kristen Little – coming off her second year as an Auxiliary district president in Ohio – is riding alongside her dad. “This was on my bucket list,” Kristen says. “I told my dad I wanted to do it, and he said, ‘We’ll do it.’” “It didn’t take any arm twisting,” says Ken, who has been riding for more than 40 years. “This is for a good cause. A great cause.”

6:19 p.m. – Legion Rider Randy Gunn of Post 284 in Colonial Heights, Va., isn’t wearing his own vest during the Run. His vest belonged to Minnesota’s Les Pratt, who rode in six previous Legacy Runs and was registered for this one. But in late July, Les passed away unexpectedly. His daughter reached out to Gunn on Facebook to let Gunn know about Les’ passing. The family gave Gunn his vest to wear during the Run, as well as $500 – what Les normally donated during the Run. Another $2,440 was donated by Les’ friends and co-workers in Minnesota. “I didn’t know Les that well,” Gunn says. “But it’s a brotherhood out here. We weren’t good friends, but we were friends who looked forward to seeing each other on the Run each year. His daughter told me, ‘Dad talked about you all the time.’ It’s because we always looked forward to spending these 10 or so days together. It’s really something how all of this worked out.”

6:35 p.m. – More than $58,000 come in during the event at Post 127 – including $11,000 from Post 233 in Loganville, Ga. The total going into today: more than $375,000.


Today: The Run finishes up at Post 155 in Kings Mountain, N.C.

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