American Legion Riders
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 enthusiast 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 approve 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.”
Legion Riders Today
Currently, 106,000 American Legion Riders meet in over a thousand chapters in every domestic department and in at least three foreign countries. Riders in Iowa have formed an honor guard called The Five Star Freedom Riders, and Riders in Mulvane, Kan., founded the Patriot Guard to protect the sanctity of military funerals from protesters. Riders in all states have escorted military units returning home from combat tours overseas, conducted massive cross-country fundraising events for wounded warriors from all services, and have raised millions of dollars for countless local, state and national charities.
True to the Legion’s grassroots tradition, each chapter manages its programs at the post level, where the best ideas are born.