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Bikers ride for vets’ kids
SMOKEY POINT — Aid came for the children of fallen veterans from an unusual source Sept. 6.
Washington state’s fifth 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.
Lee Mikels, assistant director of Bremerton Chapter 149 of the American Legion Riders, estimated that the pre-registrations and on-site sign-ups for last year’s rally would raise approximately $15,000 for the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund this year, for a total of roughly $40,000 over the past five years. The scholarship funds are devoted to the children of active-duty service members who have been killed in action in support of operations since Sept. 11, 2001.
Since bikers can join in or drop out of the run at any two points along the route, once they’ve signed up, organizers noted that it’s notoriously difficult to keep track of how many total participants they have. Still, Mikels believes that at least 150 riders participated in the day’s run, on nearly 90 cycles.
Marysville native and Vietnam veteran Dale Duffield returned for his second ride on this run, after missing it last year. The Patriot Guard Rider served in the Navy 28 years before retiring as a chief warrant officer in 1994, and arrived at the Cycle Barn in style on a Harley-Davidson Indian.
“There’s an esprit de corps among Indian riders,” Duffield said. “There’s a great camaraderie among Legion Riders, too. We’re birds of a feather. We’ve been there and done that. Especially among combat veterans, we know and appreciate what others went through, and we can talk about it in ways that we can’t with people who haven’t been through the horrors of war.”
With one son who’s a retired Marine and a grandson who’s serving in the Marines now, Duffield called for civilians to support their troops, regardless of their feelings about our country’s conflicts.
“Separate the warriors from the war,” Duffield said.
Retired Marine and fellow Vietnam veteran Glenn Fischer sought to honor not only the veterans who have fallen since 9/11, but also our country’s prisoners of war and those missing in action since the first World War. Fischer commissioned Jon Stewart, of Outlaw Customs in Portland, Ore., to paint a tribute to POWs and MIAs on his cycle’s gas tank.
“I was part of an extraction team that was sent to a POW camp in Vietnam,” Fischer said. “By the time we got there, it was leveled. There was nothing left but crosses,” he said, pointing to the crosses painted on the top of his gas tank, before pointing to the side of the tank. “These silhouettes are meant to represent all our POWs, from World War I and II through Vietnam. I told the artist not to do it unless he would sign it.”
Carol Reed, whose 10-year career in the Marines ended with her retirement as a staff sergeant in 1989, marked her first ride on this run this year. Because of her bad back, she could only ride as a passenger on her husband Joe’s cycle, but she enjoyed the experience, especially since it was for a good cause.
“It was really great, since I ran into a lot of old Legion friends,” said Reed, as she took photos in her role as historian for the Auburn American Legion. “Riding is definitely a different form of transportation. A lot depends on the weather, which was great today. We just keep in mind that we’re raising funds for young men and women to go to school, and we hope our service members come home safe.”
Sedro-Woolley resident Jim Angell also has to take a back-seat to his spouse, Judy Neff, since his disability prevents him from driving their tricycle-converted Honda Goldwing. Still, Angell appreciates being able to ride again, as he did when he was younger.
“I’m in her pocket,” Angell laughed. “Riding a bike is simply not the same as driving a car. There’s all sorts of different feels and smells, like you can say, even before you see it, ‘Oh, we must be coming up on a burger joint.’”
Both Angell and Neff are veterans, and they agreed that the friendships they made with fellow service members have yet to be matched. For that reason, they love being able to contribute to charitable causes with their peers in the Legion, especially when it benefits the families of those who have served.
“I just pray for God to bless them,” Neff said.