Curt Harper, the director of Francis Scott Key Post 11’s American Legion Riders Chapter in Frederick, Md., had a grandfather who lived in an assisted living home in Florida – and didn’t get a lot of visitors late in life.
That memory is one of the reasons Harper feels so strongly about he and his fellow Legion Riders visiting the post’s World War II veterans in person to make sure they know their membership dues are covered.
“A lot of these guys may be in nursing homes or living at home by themselves,” Harper said. “You don’t know how often they have family visiting them. I felt it was important that we at least went to let them know that we are thinking of them. We thought it would bring a big smile on their face.”
Harper said the idea started in the form of the motion made during a post meeting that the post would start covering the costs of the membership of all the World War II veterans in Post 11.
“I just came up with the idea after that that it would be a great thing if the Riders actually went out and started hand delivering these personally,” Harper said. “Most of them are in their 90s. Some of them do pop (into the post) from time to time, but most of them you don’t see. They did receive a letter a few months ago saying that their membership was going to be paid for, but they had no idea we were going to be coming out to personally deliver these.”
Harper and a dozen or so other Chapter 11 Riders recently delivered membership cards to World War II veterans in the area, getting media coverage in the process. Every time they make their visits, Harper said the veterans are overwhelmed.
“It’s been a huge success,” Harper said. “Every house we went to, every member was just ecstatic. They were just shocked and thanked us and told us it just made their day that we went out and did something like this.”
The visits give the World War II veterans an audience for their stories. “A lot of these guys, because they’re alone, they want to talk and want to tell stories,” Hunter said. “They don’t get the opportunity to do that very often. And we have some (Legion Riders) who haven’t been in the military before, so for them to hear those stories is something. And for us that are veterans, who may have shared some similar experiences, it was important for us to hear those stories, too.”
Hunter said the Riders make the perfect messengers for these visits. “For us as Riders, we’re always trying to help out with the community in the Frederick area,” he said. “I’m always trying to invite people to come up with ideas about what we can do. This is just one of those (ideas) that just came to the top of my head.
“I know I would feel proud if someone came to my door if I was in their situation. I would feel blessed and honored that someone even thought about me.”