North Carolina Legion Riders not letting pandemic ruin their plans

North Carolina Legion Riders not letting pandemic ruin their plans

For the past few years, Department of North Carolina American Legion Riders Chairman Jack Ward has wanted to get an in-state Legacy Run started in his state – in part to increase the donations from the department to The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund. And not even a national pandemic was going to get in the way of North Carolina’s American Legion Riders pulling off the ride this year.

From Oct. 1-3, riders from all over the state will take part in the inaugural North Carolina Legacy Run. Four routes – Eastern, Western, Southern and Central – will depart at some point Oct. 1-3 and eventually arrive at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in downtown Raleigh for a “Reading of the Names.” Along the routes there also will be wreath-laying ceremonies at the Wilson County Memorial Fountain and the Salisbury National Cemetery – the latter honoring longtime Department of North Carolina National Executive Committeeman Jerry Hedrick, who passed away in 2014.

“It’s kind of been in the planning stages for the last year, year and a half,” Ward said. “We had originally planned it as a ride from the coast to the mountains at the end of October, but our weather in the mountains gets kind of nasty in late October. So we changed it up to early October and put this (multiple routes) program together. We can ride and be socially distanced by just staggering our ride.”

Ward, a past department vice commander and member of American Legion Post 51 in Concord, said the in-state Legacy Run can help bring more “notoriety, if you will” for the state. Ward also believes the ride is an opportunity for the department “to get our act together” in terms of raising money for the Legacy Fund.

And then there’s the fact American Legion National Commander James “Bill” Oxford is a life member of American Legion Post 29 in Lenoir, N.C. The national commander will participate in the ride – the first time he’s had the opportunity to take part in a ride this size as national commander.

“It’s an honor to be among these American Legion Riders and be a part of a cause as important as supporting The American Legion Legacy Fund,” Oxford said. “While the pandemic forced the cancellation of all national American Legion events this summer, Legion Riders at the local, district and state level have continued to find innovative ways to raise money for the Legacy Fund. It’s a testament to their dedication to the cause of supporting the children of the fallen and the disabled.”

Ward said having Oxford be a part of the ride “is an honor and a privilege. That’s the icing on the cake. Bill Oxford’s quite a gentleman anyway, and to have him from our home state and be able to work around his schedule that’s getting busier and busier, he’s going to be a major part of this. And he is our designated ride captain for the whole event.”

Ward said that National American Legion Riders Advisory Committee Chairman Mark Clark, Department of Washington Commander Robert Clark, Department of Virginia Commander Bill Feasenmyer and Past Sons of The American Legion National Commander Joe Gladden will be among other distinguished guests taking part in the ride. Gladden is part of a Maryland American Legion Family contingent traveling to North Carolina to present Oxford with a check for nearly $40,000 for the Legacy Run that was raised during the Maryland Gold Star Legacy Run earlier this month.

More than 80 participants have signed up for the ride. “I’m really quite pleased. We’ve got a good turnout – and that we’ve got some people participating from out of state,” Ward said. “They’re going to be presenting their (Legacy Fund donations), along with our check, to the national commander. It’s made it a big event.”