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Bikers ride for veterans kids
SMOKEY POINT Aid came for the children of fallen veterans from an unusual source Sept. 8, as Washington states fourth annual American Legion Riders rally made a pit stop at the Cycle Barn in Smokey Point to raise funds by signing bikers up for their border-to-border cross-state run.
Motorcyclists were able to join the run at any one of the four pit-stops along the way, from Vancouver and Lacy to Renton and Smokey Point, before reaching their final destination in Blaine.
David Garrett, director of the Washington state chapter of the American Legion Riders, reported that the pre-registrations and on-site sign-ups for last years rally raised approximately $15,000 for the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund, while he estimated this years earnings added up to $8,000-$9,000 by 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 8.
Its for the children of veterans who wont be coming back, said Thomas Patterson, treasurer for the Bremerton chapter of the American Legion Riders. For the active-duty service members who have been killed in action in support of operations since Sept. 11, 2001, we want those kids to be able to get a college education.
Since bikers can join in or drop out of the run at any two points along the route, once theyve signed up, organizers noted that its notoriously difficult to keep track of how many total participants they have.
Still, Garrett believes that at least 80 riders participated in the days run, and described this years crowd of attendees as looking fairly similar to those who have turned out at the Cycle Barn the past three years for the event; mostly former service members, ranging in age from late 20s to early 50s, including veterans of conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and both Persian Gulf wars.
We get folks coming from Canada to Idaho, Garrett said. Im pleased with this years turnout. It helps that weve had great weather today, since we usually get rained on.
Tim Boyle, a senior chief petty officer with the U.S. Navy whos currently stationed on board the USS Michigan in Bremerton, is a 22-year veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm. He and his wife Kristi rode their Harley Street Glide in the run for the first time this year.
I just joined the Legion Riders back in November, but Ive been riding for 35 years, Boyle said. Id definitely do this again. Its for a great cause and its always great to ride. Its like therapy, because you can be having the worst day possible, but when you ride your bike, it all goes away.
Centralias Craig Johnston served in the Air Force from 1971-1975, one year of which he spent in Vietnam. He credited his son, a non-Legion member, with getting him involved in his first run this year.
These are just a good bunch of people, said Johnston, whos been riding motorcycles for 40 years. I drove up to Vancouver last night, just so I could do the whole run. Theres nothing I love more than a good, hard drive. Being outside with the wind in your hair makes you feel like a cowboy, riding through the plains.
Edmonds Damian Ervin has never served in the military, but this year marked his second run with the Legion Riders. He heard about it last year on the radio and enjoyed it so much that he returned to the Cycle Barn on his Harley Dyna Wide Glide this year.
Im a patriotic person and events like this bring that out, said Ervin, who noted that several of his relatives have served in the military. We cant all be over there fighting, so we do what we can do over here. As for why I ride in general, its almost like a religion. Its a way of life. Four wheels are for work, but two wheels are for living.
Well do this as long as we can, Garrett said. If that means we wind up riding when were in wheelchairs, then so be it.
To learn more about the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund, you may log onto their Web site at www.legion.org/support/?content=gi_amlegacysch.