A total of 241 motorcycles departed Romulus, Mich., on Monday morning during Day 2 of the Legacy Run. But for two Minnesota American Legion Riders, there was an additional presence along the ride.
Matt and Mike Martin, both members of American Legion Post 69 in Granite Falls and ALR Chapter 59 in Montevideo, are carrying with them this week the riding vest of friend and fellow Chapter 59 Legion Rider Jim Ruether, who was killed in December 2022. Ruether was the owner of a truck repair shop and died when a truck rolled over him while on a service call.
Matt, who has six terms as post commander, said he’s known Ruether “my entire life,” while Mike served alongside Ruether in the Minnesota Army National Guard. “I just know his family pretty well, and his community knew him pretty well. He would step in if we had (Riders) events. Mike and I asked his wife if it’d be alright if we brought Jim on the ride,” Matt said. “She just loved the idea.”
Mike said he and Matt being able to bring Ruether’s vest on the Legacy Run “is an honor. Jim was definitely a patriot. He loved the National Guard. He loved serving his country. He was an inspiration to me as a young private going in. He was always there for you. If somebody needed help, he was one of those guys that would always step up.
“And I tried to model myself after him. He was just a good role model and did a lot of community service work. Very involved with the American Legion Riders.”
Matt is on his fifth in-person Legacy Run, while Mike is riding his second one. Matt said when other Legion Riders see the vest and hear the story, “I think they can just feel being with their buddies they lost, too.”
Chapter 59 recently staged a Jim Ruether Tribute ride that drew around 75 people and 20-plus bikes, despite it being a rainy day. And then on the way to Kokomo, Ind., for the start of this year’s ride, Mike said he noticed something he called “ironic. This year, some of the small towns we went by, people were standing outside their house, waving. A couple of guys at a fire station we went by … it was like they knew our trip had more meaning this year than it did in the previous year.”