Swope Park in Cottonwood Falls rumbled under the tires of about 40 motorcyclists Saturday morning.
They were in town to visit the Chase County All Veterans Memorial during their annual Legacy Run. The Kansas American Legion Riders dedicated their weekend to motorcycling throughout the state, stopping at seven All Veterans Memorials locations.
Terry Harris, Lead Road Captain and Commander for the Sons of the American Legion, said riding with such a large group is awesome.
“It’s been wonderful, except the (mother and baby) deer up the road that decided they were gonna slow us down, but that’s OK” Harris said. He said they were blessed to have such nice weather forecasted over the weekend, too.
Assistant Lead Road Captain T. “T-Man” Fisher and Harris mentioned that when the riders arrived at their Manhattan hotel, they each had a card, a miniature flag and little bags of popcorn awaiting them, all done out of the kindness and appreciation of the hotel’s heart.
The Kansas American Legion Riders is a state branch of the larger national American Legion Riders organization. All funds raised through motorcyclist registration and community donations are put in the American Legion National Legacy fund to create scholarships for children of veterans who are either more than 50 percent disabled or who were killed in action. The national organization is 14 years old. The Kansas American Legion was established five years ago.
“We are all on the same mission,” Harris said. “We are all in support of our veterans and our veterans’ families.”
Fisher plans on joining the national ride this year, where there are about 350-400 motorcyclists. Last year, the national Legacy Run started in Hutchinson. This year, motorcyclists will ride from Lady Lake, Florida, to Indianapolis.
“It’s something you don’t want to miss,” Fisher said. “You do it (the Kansas ride) every year, and you’re anxious to get back out and do it.”
Some of the riders get together throughout the year on casual rides or to ride a pre-run of the Legacy Run route.
During one of the pre-runs, Harris noticed that the American flag at the Chase County Memorial was battered by the wind and hail. He and another rider took the flag down and replaced it. During the memorial service, he presented the flag to Chase County Colonel Charles Rayl. Rayl announced that the Chase County Veterans Committee would formally retire the flag at their Flag Day event on Friday.
The memorial, built in 1994, has more veterans’ names listed than there are residents currently living in Chase County, which is about 2,600. A unique feature of the Chase County All Veterans Memorial is that the helicopter on display is one that Rayl flew in Vietnam.
The memorial service also consisted of a plaque presentation and a wreath laying ceremony.
A special feature of this year’s ride was nearly every motorcyclist wore a pink bandanna. They did so in recognition of Kansas American Legion Secretary Diana Starr’s fight with cancer.
Starr was diagnosed in February and rapidly pursued a series of treatments, motivated by her strong desire to be able to participate in this ride. Her treatments concluded on May 6, but she will not know if she is cancer-free until August.
“With characters like this, it’s always a blast,” Starr said about the ride. She said they all keep things light-hearted and truly take care of one another.
A few riders organized backup rides for Starr, in case she did not feel well enough to ride. By the first stop, she said she was still feeling great about riding her own motorcycle. Starr was gifted $100 during the ceremony.
She is also active duty for the National Guard and is stationed out of Topeka.
All riders were from Kansas, with the exception of one rider from Nebraska and two from Oklahoma. In total, the riders trekked 388 miles together.
Last year, the Kansas American Legion Riders raised about $2,800. This year, they are hoping for a similar or better outcome.
Any individuals or organizations wishing to make a contribution can make checks out to American Legion Department of Kansas. In the memo, mark “KS Legacy Run,” so the donation is categorized within this event.