Where We Started
In Garden City, Mich., in 1993, Chuck “Tramp” Dare and Bill “Polka” Kaledas, commander of American Legion Post 396, shared an idea to start a motorcycle enthusiasts’ association within the organization. The two longtime riders wanted an environment where Legion family members could come together to share a common love for motorcycles.
Dare and Kaledas wrote a letter to Michigan Department Adjutant Hubert Hess, sharing their idea. Hess replied that he liked the concept and wanted to pursue it. Later, he gave Kaledas and Dare instructions for managing the program at the post level. He also explained how they could be approved to use the American Legion emblem, and how to gain Membership’s support and recognition. At a regular meeting, Post 396 members passed a resolution for a new program to be known as the “American Legion Riders.” Joined by 19 other founding members from their post, Dare and Kaledas were flooded with requests for information about their organization. They agreed to establish a central source for the Riders to ensure that chapters formed not as motorcycle clubs or gangs, but as Legionnaires, Auxiliary and SAL members joining to ride as Legion family.
2005 Brings a New Mission to The Legion Riders
When the American Legion Riders from Legion Post 136, Mulvane, Kansas heard that the Westborough Baptist Church were going to protest at the Funeral of Sgt John Doles, KIA from Chelsea, Oklahoma, a Mission Statement was established. The Mission Statement included getting the Families permission and contacting Law Enforcement and other Motorcycle Groups in Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as other states. The committee agreed that the ultimate goal was to get veterans and motorcycle organizations involved in every state so that each state could handle the situation internally and not rely on other states to do the job. Cregg Hansen used his American Legion Rider Chapter contacts to spread the word about the mission. Our established procedures have been adopted by all Patriot Guard for use on the National level. The 11 October 2005 Chelsea, Oklahoma mission was planned and executed with military precision. After the successful Chelsea Mission, the Kansas American Legion Riders wanted all motorcycle groups, organizations, and individual supporters to be recognized. Therefore, on 18 October 2005 the name of the "PATRIOT GUARD" was established. The "Patriot Guard" name was proudly announced to more than one hundred riders present at the 27 October 2005 Tonganoxie Mission to Honor SPC Lucas Frantz. We designed our Patriot Guard patches and began distributing them in late November 2005.
Fast Forward to 2009
Post 273, Madeira Beach, Department of Florida
In March of 2009, American Legion Post 273 in Madeira Beach, Florida, voted to endorse a Legion Riders Chapter at their Post. We began with a core group of about 26 and within less than 18 months had a membership over 165. Many programs and charities have been sponsored and adopted in the years since Chapter 273 was first Chartered. One of the first was "Paws for Patriots", aiding in providing guide dogs and eventually service dogs to Veterans. Providing recently homeless Veterans children with a Merry Christmas soon followed. Chapter 273 started their own version of "Project Vet Relief" under the title of "Bridging the Gaps Fund" and had specific fundraising for "Parties" at the Community Living Center and Domiciliary. With themes ranging from pizza parties to Superbowl parties that included music and camaraderie, the interaction with these hospitalized Veterans had a dramatic effect on all those involved. In August of 2009, it was brought to our attention that there were monthly funeral services being held at Bay Pines National Cemetery for Veterans that had passed away without family members available to arrange proper Military Rites. The only people there to acknowledge their Life, Service to Our Nation and Passing were those in the Honor Guard and some of the Cemetery Staff. Gathering our brothers and sisters from other Legion Riders Chapters and other Patriotic Organizations and Riders groups, No Veteran has since passed without a Flag Line of Legion Riders, VFW Riders, Patriot Guard Riders and any Patriotic American willing to give their time to honor those that have gone before. Within 3 months, standing for "Veterans Without Families" became a Nationwide program of the Patriot Guard Riders. Most of the core leadership of the original Charter remain active to this writing (2019).
Where we go from here is only limited by OUR IMAGINATIONS.