American Legion Social Media Manager Steve Brooks is following along or getting out ahead of the Legacy Run in what has to be a 70-foot long, 32-passenger Ford Transit, with visual journalists Lucas Carter and Clay Lomneth, to cover the 2016 Legacy Run.
6:26 a.m. – Pick up Lucas and Clay at Lucas’ apartment. Having just spent eight days in Shelby, N.C., with the two covering the American Legion World Series, I worry we may run out of things to talk about before we get to Kenneth N. Dowden Wayne Post 64 in Indianapolis.
6:45 a.m. – We get to Post 64, sans any awkward silences.
Charles Gremlich, a member of the Sons of The American Legion Squadron at Post 200 in Boonville, Ind., waits on the overpass at the Odon, Ind., exit to show his support for the Run. “I haven’t seen this many motorcycles together at one time, except for on TV or YouTube,” he says. “I absolutely had to see it.”
7 a.m. – Assistant Road Captain Theardies “T-Man” Fisher, a member of Post 4 in Wichita, Kan., preps his bike. He’s on his ninth Legacy Run. “It’s like a new beginning,” he says of the first day of the Run. “Then you roll out and it all falls into place.” And why come back year after year? “"You get the bug,” he says. “It's for the kids, man. It's all for the kids."
7:11 a.m. – “Ride your ride, but stay tight,” Chief Road Captain Bob Sussan says during a ride briefing. “Ride safe.”
7:30 a.m. – Sussan is like a Swiss watch, and the Run leaves Post 64 at its appointed time. More than 290 motorcycles leave the post.
9:11 a.m. – The Run makes its first gas stop at a Walmart in Bloomington, Ind. – home of Indiana University, the greatest college in the history of the world. A similar Ford Transit van, looking like it has gone through a demolition derby or two, passes in front of us. “That’s what our van is going to look like when we’re done,” Clay says.
10:53 a.m. – On the same bridge, Post 64 members Linda Todd and Rick Fatout have driven nearly 90 miles to hold a flag as the Run passes. They’ve made it a tradition to do so when the ride heads out along I-70 near their post, but the Run didn’t use that route this time. “They deserve this because of what they’re doing for the kids who’ve lost their parents,” Todd says.
10:41 a.m. – We’ve now passed into Central Time and have gained an hour. We spent the first part of that bonus time on an overpass at the exit for Oakland City, Ind., where members of the Oakland City Fire Department have brought a fire truck holding a large U.S. flag. Legionnaires from area posts and other locals were there waving smaller flags as the Run passes underneath. Oakland City Fire Department Capt. Scott Trotter salutes the entire ride. “It’s an honor that The American Legion is coming through here,” he says. “We wanted to be here for the veterans.”
11:04 a.m. – Soon after, on the Exit 27 overpass, the Buckskin Volunteer Fire Department has a similar display set up. Future overpasses also will have supporters lining them.
12:05 p.m. – We arrive at the LST-325 Memorial in Evansville, Ind. The ship served in World War II in operations in North Africa and Italy, as well as on Omaha Beach during D-Day. Several TV stations are there to cover the ride.
12:12 p.m. – Pete Snowden is a student at the University of Southern Indiana. He’s also the commander of Post 324, which was established at the university in 2014. “The guys that are doing the ride and raising the money … anything we can do to help them out,” Snowden says. “It’s an honor for us.”
12:56 p.m. – The Run arrives at the memorial and are served lunch courtesy Post 324.
1:25 p.m. – Craig Pulver, the adjutant and a Legion Rider from Post 84 in Otsego, Mich., is on his first Legacy Run. He tears up when asked about his reaction to the flags and people standing along the overpasses on the highway. “It’s awesome,” he says. “You can’t ride underneath one of those without thinking other things: Guys that you had to leave behind and what we’re doing now. It’s just great.”
2:05 p.m. – National Commander Dale Barnett and Past National Commander Jim Koutz are among those taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the LST-325 Memorial. Barnett praises Indiana’s Eighth District for its hospitality and for the support the Run has seen so far.
3:45 p.m. – I want a chocolate-dipped cone. Clay concurs it sounds good. So we find a Dairy Queen roughly five minutes from our next stop. I get the dipped cone; Clay and Lucas go for Blizzards. Lucas is somewhat dismayed the restaurant’s happy hour is only on weekdays.
4:07 p.m. – The Run arrives at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West for a wreath-laying ceremony. More than 30 Kentucky Legion family members are waiting and greet the group with applause.
4:16 p.m. – Richard Page, commander of the honor guard at Post 236 in Calvert City, Ky., is at the cemetery, along with approximately 17 other members of his honor guard. “We just want to honor these Riders for what they’re doing,” says Page, who traveled an hour and 20 minutes to get here. “It’s a wonderful thing, and I believe we need to support what these folks are trying to do.”
4:55 p.m. – We pull into Fort Campbell Post 233 in Oak Grove, Ky. There, Michael “Joker” White – a past ALR chapter director there – has been cooking 200 hot dogs and hamburger over charcoal for two hours.
5:12 p.m. – The ride pulls into Post 233. “We want to do whatever we can for the Legion Riders on the Legacy Run,” White says. “We’re definitely proud to have them stopping here.”
5:15 p.m. – National Commander Dale Barnett, who rode a couple legs of the ride on the back of Georgia Legionnaire Bob Brown’s bike, says the idea for his Awareness Walks for Veterans came from, in part, the Legacy Run. “They had some real vision about how to reach out and be aware,” he says. “My project this year was awareness walks – to get out of the post. I took a lesson from the Legacy Ride because I saw how successful it was. It’s the same concept: It’s getting out in a community and telling our story.”
5:45 p.m. – Donations are presented, including $6,000 from Post 14 in Ponca City, Okla., and $4,000 from the Legion family at Post 253 in Royal Oak, Mich. The total for the day is $25,575, bringing the amount raised so far to $428,239.76.