For a few hours during Wednesday’s leg of the Legacy Run, the American Legion Riders eschewed their normal mode of transportation for one a little more elementary – literally.
During their stop in Quemado, N.M., ride participants stepped off their motorcycles and got onto school buses to take a short ride to A Warrior’s Oasis. Located on 480 acres off a stretch of road that goes by Omega, the facility serves as a respite for members of the military and veterans – and their families – in need of a recharge.
Opened by David and René Dickey and hosting its first guest in 2019, A Warrior’s Oasis seeks to assist its guests by “providing an environment where veterans and service members can experience a relaxing place away from stress.” The facility incorporates outdoor activities and alternative therapies as a way to assist veterans and active-duty military dealing with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma. A lake, lap pool and fitness center are set to be added to the property.
While there, American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford presented the Dickeys with a check for $26,381.16 that came via an American Legion Operation Comfort Warriors grant. The New Mexico American Legion Riders also donated $3,000 to A Warrior’s Oasis.
René said a donation like the OCW contribution is critical in that “it goes to programs. It’s huge, because we don’t charge people when they come out there. We ask them that they get themselves out here … and then we take care of their lodging, their meals, their mental and emotional counseling that they require. And if not, if they just want to debrief and take a breath, we’ve got them, too.”
That it was a Legacy Run stop – a ride to raise money for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund – to deliver the donation made perfect sense to the Dickeys. “It lines up with our mission,” René said. “(The American Legion is) about the whole family. And that’s what we’re about.”
During the stop, the Riders were provided with lunch, as well as music from Vegas McGraw, a Las Vegas-based Tim McGraw tribute band that has opened for international artists such as Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Eric Church and Celine Dion. René said when the band learned what the Riders were doing, it didn’t charge its normal fee, rather just asking for gas funds, as well as a place to stay and a meal.
Legacy Run Chief Road Captain Mark Clark said the stop at A Warrior’s Oasis fit in perfectly with both what the Riders are doing and the mission of The American Legion. “This is a veteran couple that has put their heart into taking care of other veterans,” he said. “When you think about what we stand for, what’s our motto? ‘Veterans Strengthening America.’ It’s veterans like this couple here, putting in their time into something that’s going to be magical when it’s complete. One of the Four Pillars of The American Legion is to make sure we care for veterans. This fits in perfectly with what we do.”
A Familiar Face Up Front. Veterans of the Legacy Run probably notice a familiar face up near the very front of the ride. And there’s a reason for that.
A 53-year member of The American Legion, Jim Cowley rode in part of the first two Legacy Runs, and has served as assistant chief road captain on every one since. The member of Galva American Legion Hagberg-Hamlin Post 45 in Illinois said the reason for becoming assistant chief road captain was pretty simple.
“I got asked,” Cowley said with a laugh, noting the request came from former Chief Road Captain Dick Woods. “I guess part of what got him interested in me trying this was I did almost 30 years over-the-road truck driving. He said ‘it doesn’t seem like there’s a road you don’t know about.’ Then (future chief road captains) just hung onto me.”
Cowley said one of his primary responsibilities happens before the Legacy Run departs from its opening location. He assists in the planning of the route, fine-tuning the final map the nearly 200 motorcycles and passengers navigate over the course of the ride.
But Mark Clark, in his first year as the ride’s chief road captain, said Cowley is equally important when kickstands go up. “To have somebody with Jim’s expertise, with his history of working through the multiple challenges that can happen on one of these Runs, I think just having Jim as a calming force whenever things are getting a little skewed … just to have Jim say ‘Hey, Mark, it’s OK. We’ve done this before,’” he said. “More importantly, Jim is just a great partner. He’s such a humble leader. Jim doesn’t want any credit for anything. He just wants to have this Run be the best Run that it can be. I’m blessed to have Jim as my partner in this ride. He’s been fully engaged from the very start of our planning.”
Cowley said the cause behind the Legacy Run is the reason he’s never missed one. “It’s for the kids: what we do to raise money to support the Legacy Scholarship Fund,” he said. “I enjoy doing it.”
Warm Welcome in Quemado. The Legacy Run’s second stop of the day was in Quemado to refuel and park, where the Riders would get on buses to take them to A Warrior’s Oasis.
Also in Quemado were 100-plus students in grades k-12 who stood outside of their Quemado Independent School building to cheer for the ride participants as they drove to the gas station and pulled into their parking lot. The students waved flags, chanted “U.S.A.” and yelled out support for the procession of motorcycles.
Quemado Independent Schools Superintendent David Lackey said with the ride stopping at the school parking lot, it was a perfect opportunity to involve his students.
“We figured with the motorcycles and veterans in our parking lot, we might as well make it a learning experience,” Lackey said. “They spent some times making flags. It’s not something they get to see every day.
“(Veterans are) something we honor here. A small community. A rural community. We definitely want to build that respect as they’re growing. It’s just a good thing to do.”
Mark Meysembourg, the Texas state American Legion Riders advisor and a member of American Legion Post 299 in Woodville, said later that sights like the students in Quemado “make the ride. Those are the highlights.”
Beauty and a Gas Stop. The ride departed the Elegante Lodge and Resort in beautiful Ruidoso – getting a send-off greeting from Mayor Lynn Crawford – on Wednesday morning and spent the next 112 heading out of the mountains and winding over beautiful, green hills on the way to a gas stop in Lemitar, N.M.
Waiting for the Legacy Run to assist with the stop were members of American Legion Post 49 in Albuquerque, including three-term Post Commander Ramona Harris. Earlier in the day, the New Mexico American Legion Riders donated more than $8,500 to the Legacy Fund.
An associate member of the American Legion Riders, Harris said she and the others had never been a part of a Legacy Run. “When we heard they were coming through, they needed people to help pump gas,” she said. “It was a good opportunity.”
Seeing nearly 200 motorcycles refueling so quickly was “amazing. And it’s such a great cause,” she said. “Our Legion Riders in New Mexico did their own (in-state Legacy Run) a couple weeks ago. It’s great that we could come together and donate for all the children for the scholarship fund.”