The roar of more than 100 motorcycle engines is intense. The sight of those motorcycles pulling into a parking lot and driving to a gas station, in a packed group, or in an orderly line down US Route 360 and State Route 3 is impressive. The fact that all of them ride to help the children of soldiers who died in combat–even more impressive.
When the riders passed through Tappahannock and fueled up at the Sheetz, they had between 125 and 135 riders. “It’s fluctuating,” said Sean Devlin, the media spokesman for the ride, “We have guys who’ll ride for a little bit and drop out, but that’s how it always is, whether we do our state legacy run or the national run.” By the end of the run, he expected to have between 165 or even 175 riders after they picked more up at each American Legion post they passed.
This the first time the American Legion of Virginia has done a scholarship run in Virginia. “The scholarship run, we give $20,000 a year to the children of soldiers, service members, who have been killed in action since 9/11,” Devlin said. “And we do for a child for up to six years, so long as they qualify.
“We’ve been so successful over the years,” he continued. “And we kind of embarrassed the government a little bit, so they started their own program for the children of service members, which opened up a lot of money for us because we continued to raise money. So we expanded that. We expanded out to if you are a disabled service member of 50 percent or greater, your children also qualify.”
The American Legion of Virginia has done the national run, which meets somewhere in the United States–it changes every year. The national run is longer as every group meets up at that year’s location. “We raised probably over $10 million in total over the years. We’re happy to do this for the veterans and their families,” Devlin said.
Last year, on the national level, the American Legion raised $1.2 million.
Devlin described the national ride as grueling, riding 400 to 500 miles a day, and estimated between 40 and 100 riders from Virginia participate. “Some people call it the iron butt run,” he said.
“Our whole mission–we have four pillars,” Devlin said. “One is veterans and rehabilitation, and children and youth. And [the scholarship run] seemed like a good mix, because it not only mixes our responsibility to the veterans of this country, but also recognizes our responsibility to the children of these veterans, because we are a whole family group. We start off with the American Legion, but then we have the Sons of the American Legion, we have the Auxiliary of the American Legion. Then we expanded years ago to the Legion Riders, which is a conglomeration of all the groups. It’s a whole family thing, that’s why we concentrate on family.”
The goal of the scholarship run is to raise the funds for the children, but it also acts as visibility for the American Legion.
“You get this many motorcycles going down the road, you see people stopping, coming out of their houses, whooping and hollering, and other drivers pulling off the side of the road.
For the full article pick up a copy of this weeks Northern Neck Newspaper 7/25/18