Legacy Run Day 3: Carrying on a family tradition

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Deanna Woodburn was on the back of a motorcycle at 7 a.m. on Aug. 19, kicking off a day that didn’t end until she got back to her hotel in Gainesville, Ga., after 7 p.m.

And then she did homework.

But that didn’t keep a smile off Woodburn’s face at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, standing in the parking lot of Gainesville’s Belk department store. The 18-year-old member of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 1922 in Springfield, Ill., has wanted to take part in a Legacy Run for a long time. After all, it’s in her blood.

“(The Legacy Run) has always been so important to me and my family that I’ve wanted to do it for years,” said Woodburn, the daughter of American Legion Department of Illinois Membership Chairman Chad Woodburn, an American Legion Rider on his fourth Legacy Run, and granddaughter of former longtime Legion Rider Terry Woodburn. “I always saw my grandpa going on the rides, and then I saw my dad starting to go on them as well. I always wanted to be a part of the Riders, and I’d known that for many years.

“I am able to now apply for the Legacy Scholarship, so for me it’s really important to be able to see where this money is coming from and how it’s being raised.”

Terry Woodburn was the longtime Department of Illinois adjutant and former chairman of National American Legion Riders Advisory Committee. Woodburn was instrumental in the early years of the Legacy Run, serving as a road captain, and also worked for American Legion National Headquarters from 1992-1998 as the Child Welfare Foundation’s executive secretary.

Terry passed away June 25, 2015, and just over a year later, Chad took part in his first Legacy Run – in part to honor his father and in part to fulfill a longtime goal as well. “It was something I wanted to do because of being a Rider and knowing what the American Legion Family does for veterans, for children,” he said. “And I wanted my daughter to see it – she’s been an Auxiliary member since birth and been very active – and for her to see what the Riders do was real important.”

For Chad, a member of Post 1922, preparing his daughter for the ride wasn’t easy. “There’s no real way to prepare a person, other than to tell them it’s going to be long days,” he said. “But it’s a fun family time. When we got into Florida on (Aug. 17), she was right by my side and was a little shy, which is not her. The next day her social butterfly was back, and she was out enjoying the family presence that’s here.”

A freshman at Heartland Community College and past honorary national Central Division Junior Auxiliary vice president, Deanna began to notice that family environment pretty early. “I have had so many people come up and say … ‘hey, you’re Chad’s daughter,’ or ‘hey, you’re Terry’s granddaughter.’ It makes me so happy to know he touched so many people. It’s just really special for me.”

With Deanna on the ride, three generations of Woodburn Legion Riders have taken part. “It’s awesome,” Chad said. “Dad’s looking down on us and smiling right now.”

Worth the work. At historic Post 28 in Spartanburg, S.C. – another centennial post along the route – the ride was Chick-fil-A boxed lunches provided by Humana. The post facility was built in 1936, is made primarily of local granite and is listed on the National Register.

Having the 221 Legion Riders and their 43 passengers stop at the post “was something. It’s one of my highlights of my five years (as post commander),” Post 28 Commander Carroll Owens said. “I’ve been working with (Legacy Run Chief Road Captain) Bob Sussan on this thing for about a year now. It’s just great to be able to do this part for them. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

Showing her support. North Carolina Alternate Executive Committeeman Patricia Harris, a member of Post 124 in Apex, N.C., traveled all the way to Post 28 so she could ride with the Legacy Run up to Shelby, N.C., where the American Legion World Series championship game was scheduled to be played. Harris rode on the back of Tarboro, N.C., American Legion Auxiliary Unit 13 President Ottine “Tina” Miller’s motorcycle.

“I couldn’t think of a better thing to do at the end of the World Series than to come and support the Legacy Run coming through our state,” Harris said. “I am always proud of my brothers and sisters that … supporting such an important issue for us.”

First-timer perspective. Ride participant Devin Smith is a member of Sons of The American Legion Squadron Post 6 in Cheyenne, Wyo. His wife, Diane, is a member of Post 6 and currently is serving in the U.S. Army and is deployed to the Middle East.

Riding through Uptown Shelby, N.C., where residents lined the streets waving American Legion flags and cheering the Riders, was a moving experience, one of many he’s had on the Run.

“It truly makes you believe in America again,” Smith said. “It just goes to show that people really do love America and the military. I’ve got a wife who’s currently deployed, so it’s neat seeing the support for that.”

BBQ and baseball. American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad, who has been on the Legacy Run since its start Aug. 18, left the Riders briefly that night, getting taken via motorcycle to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C. But before that, he and the other ride participants were provided a pulled pork dinner at American Legion Post 155 in Kings Mountain, N.C. The ride originally had been invited to the post as a place to “hang out,” but that evolved into Post 155 becoming a dinner stop.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Post 155 Commander Ken Breakfield about hosting the Riders. “It just worked out to where we were able to get everything arranged in a short period of time. It’s a blessing for us to have it.”

Breakfield knew the ride had gone through periods of heavy rain but also knew that wouldn’t deter them. “They’re veterans,” he said. “A lot of them have been through a lot more than that.”

Legacy Scholarship

Legacy Scholarship

The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund helps ensure higher education is a possibility for children whose parents lost their lives while on duty since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.