Many Legion Riders regularly take part in Wreaths Across America events in December. (Photo by Lucas Carter)

Bad weather not an obstacle for Legion Riders

Temperatures around American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis dipped to the 30s in late October. The first major snowstorm of the year blanketed Minnesota, and parts of Michigan and Wisconsin around the same.

While some states are still enjoying early fall weather, others already are bracing for the cold winter months. And despite freezing temperatures and occasional winter precipitation, American Legion Riders in those states will continue with business as usual.

Weather often doesn’t get in the way of Legion Riders’ efforts in assisting those in their communities and honoring the fallen. While some Riders chapters may adjust what they do, the mission remains the same: helping and/or honoring others.

When it comes to the latter, the Department of Wisconsin Legion Riders have excelled. Since 2012, they’ve raised money to participate in a Wreaths Across America event in their state in December. The Wisconsin Legion Riders have raised funds for thousands on wreaths to be placed on the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Waupaca.

That’s just one story. Below are just a few of what Legion Riders shared on the ALR National Facebook page about what they do when the temps drop and the snow begins.

• Wintersville, Ohio, Chapter 557. Secretary Tracey Petrisko said Chapter 557 uses the winter to conduct events like chili and soup sales to raise funds for their big events during riding season. The chapter also participates in Veterans Day events, and provides assistance to veterans living in the local nursing home.

• Battle Creek, Mich., Chapter 298. Debbie Bouffard said the winter months are a great time for parties and chili cook-offs, as well as planning for summer activities. “Sitting still? Never,” Bouffard said.

• Naples, Maine, Chapter 155. “Just because we can't ride here in Maine doesn't mean we stop helping vets,” the chapter said. “We do things like visiting vets in nursing homes and supplying food rent, heating oil and anything else we can do. We also use the winter months to plan our next year’s activities.”

• Danville, Ill., Chapter 210. John Pigg said the chapter does a Christmas program for children at the local homeless veteran and family house, where nine families and 53 other homeless veterans reside. The chapter also volunteers at the local Department of Veterans Affairs facility and is active with Wreaths Across America at Danville National Cemetery. “We help a local church feed veterans for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and provide food baskets for needy veterans in the area,” Pigg said. “We stay very busy even though some days we can’t ride.”

• Leonardville, Kan., Chapter 40. Riders from ALR Chapter 40 take part in the Department of Kansas’ Big Red One Turkey Run, an annual fundraiser for the families at the Fort Riley Warrior Transition Battalion. The chapter also continues to raise funds for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund, conducts dinners and does “whatever else we can find to assist veterans and their families,” said Carolyn Knitter.

• Laingsburg, Mich., Post 248. The chapter has bike socials every week, adopts a family at Christmas and collects items for Toys for Tots. It also continues to have welcome-home and thank-you dinners for Vietnam veterans.

• Wayne, N.J., Chapter 174. “Because ALR members are also members of AL, ALA and SAL we work as a family during the winter months to do great things as a family,” Lisa Voci said. “We have many events throughout the winter months, such as Toys for Tots, Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners for vets and their families, Christmas tree sales, children’s Christmas party and our annual Chili Cook-Off. We visit veterans in nursing homes with gifts, food and conversation, (and) we also send packages to our troops overseas. We also support other American Legion Rider events.”

• Blaine, Wash., Post 86. Kirk Hayes said the Riders finds ways to increase funds “so we can spread it around during the holidays.” Their efforts include a post chili challenge and a chowder challenge with other area Legion posts.

• For Omaha, Kan., Chapter 1 member John Michael Hanzlik, safety is a priority – for both himself and for others. “If the weather gets too dangerous or too cold to ride, and there is an important mission, I go in a cage, because it's our bodily presence and support for the mission that is the focus,” he said. “In the winter I write books and short stories and motorcycle safety tips about riding. I try to learn something new about riding, or new motorcycles, by watching videos and networking with other riders … at the post or on (Facebook).”

• Loudonville, Ohio, Chapter 257. The chapter has a biker ball, an Ohio Legion Riders party and fundraisers. “Our Ohio riders are a strong group,” Mindy Hinkle said. “We don't slow down. We are constantly planning something to help veterans.”

• Mike Osborne of Chapter 226 in Elsberry Mo., said his chapter’s mentality is pretty simple. “We keep riding. We figure our soldiers never get to choose the weather they had to fight in, so we don't get to choose the weather we ride for them in.”

• Donald Hohman, a Legion Riders with Chapter 952 in Hookstown, Pa., summed it up pretty well. “It's 40 (degrees), raining (and) you have a soldier coming back after multiple tours in the sandbox,” he said. “You dress warm, get on the bike, and ride the escort as you have a mission to do. Suck it up, sunshine.”