History of The American Legion Riders

In the fall of 1993 in Garden City, Michigan, Chuck (Tramp) Dare and the commander of Michigan’s American Legion Post 396, (Polka) Bill Kaledas shared an idea to start an association of motorcycle enthusiasts within The American Legion. The two Legionnaires--both long-time riders--wanted to provide an environment where post, Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion members who shared a common love for motorcycles could come together.

Legion Riders

Dare and Kaledas prepared a letter to Michigan Department Adjutant Hubert Hess. In his November 19th, 1993 reply, Hess agreed with the concept and stated that it "sounds like a great idea—let’s work it out." In further correspondence and follow-up phone conversations, Hess gave the two riders instructions on how to manage such a program at the post level. He also provided information on how to get approval for the use of the American Legion Emblem and to get this program recognized and supported by the membership. The members of Post 396, at a regular Legion meeting, considered a resolution for a new post program to be known as the "American Legion Riders". The resolution passed, establishing the birth of the new program.

Dare and Kaledas, joined by 19 other founding members of the Garden City Post 396, soon found themselves inundated with requests for information about the new organization, and agreed to establish a central source of information about the Riders, to make certain that the new “chapters” around the country formed not as motorcycle clubs or gangs, but as Legionnaires, Auxiliary, and SAL members joining to ride as members of The American Legion family. Pat Babcock, an SAL member from Michigan, soon established a website with sample by-laws and instructions for forming new Chapters. That website, americanlegionriders.net , continues to be the primary source of information and assistance for new Chapters worldwide.

The American Legion Riders Today:

Riders holding flag

Today the American Legion Riders have grown to nearly 800 Legion Rider programs in virtually every Department and in several overseas areas. Over the last few years, Riders in Iowa have formed an honor guard called The Five Star Freedom Riders. Riders in Mulvane, Kansas, reacting to a religious cult that uses the deaths of military members to further a misguided cause, formed the original “Patriot Guard” to protect and show our respect to the families at military funerals. American Legion Riders in all states have escorted returning military units as they return home from combat tours overseas, and have raised literally millions of dollars for countless local, state, and national charities.

And the Riders have only just started to roll.

Each American Legion Rider Chapter manages its programs at the post level, where all of the best ideas are born in the best American Legion “grass-roots” tradition. Here are only a few examples of the programs and projects of The Riders:

  1. Participation in the annual POW/MIA Rally held each Memorial weekend in Washington D.C. known as "Rolling Thunder".
  2. Participation in annual regional rides such as “Operation Wounded Warrior, sponsored by Riders in Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California, and several other western states.
  3. Sponsoring or participating in local charity events in support of The American Legion or of the community.
  4. Raising money for such organizations as local VA Hospitals, Women and Children's Centers, Children and youth centers, schools, and many others.
  5. Sponsoring or participating in motorcycle "Runs" to benefit numerous charities, including charities for underprivileged children and medical research, just to name a few.
  6. Participation in local memorial ceremonies and community parades.
  7. Annual participation in The American Legacy Run, a fundraising cross-country run from The American Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, to the year’s national convention city.
  8. Riding to honor fallen military men and women, and to protect the sanctity of their funerals from those who would dishonor their memory.
  9. Riding escort for military units enroute to departure airfields and airports to combat tours overseas, and welcoming them home upon their return.

Motorcyclists are a very dedicated group of people. When you combine them with The American Legion Family, you create a win/win situation