American Legion – American Bikers

American Legion Riders honor veterans and support community
By: 
MIRIAM CAMPAN
Reporter
Friday, June 14, 2019
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Post 16 ALR Chapter President Mike Howell is a man on a big mission.

Photo by Miriam Campan

At 7 p.m. each second Monday of the month, a group of civic-minded individuals sit down with a common purpose and goal. Meeting protocols are observed as the session is called to order. All stand with hands over hearts as the pledge is recited. They sit as last month’s minutes are approved, new and ongoing business is discussed and then their meeting is adjourned.

However, unlike most civic-minded organizations, the members of the American Legion Riders wear leather, grow beards (at least the men do), wear patches and ride (for the most part) Harleys. They might raise an eyebrow during a chance encounter on the street or the grocery store, but they are all business when it comes to discussing ways to fulfill their mission: honoring the nation’s veterans and their families while contributing to the community. 

Mike Howell, current president of the ALR Post 16 said, “Other chapters are more formal. We like to get to business in a more relaxed atmosphere.” 

With the American Legion on the corner of Main and Fourth as their meeting location, the setting lends itself to both reverence and lightheartedness. Reverence is paramount in regards to their mission: “Riding to support veterans and assist charities.” 

One requirement must be fulfilled in order to be an ALR member. According to their website and brochure, “Members must belong to the American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary or be a Son of the American Legion to qualify.”

Three-year member Mary Hajenga said, “Not all riders need to be on a motorcycle. Cars or trucks can ride behind the motorcycles.”  

There is, however, a need for more riders, whether on motorcycle or other modes of transportation.

 “We need members to represent the ALR for the Fourth of July parade,” said Howell. 

ALR members will meet at 9:30 a.m. for the parade that commences at 11 a.m. They will also be represented during this year’s Chokecherry Festival with a booth alongside the American Legion’s.

Sargent of Arms Steve Smith wanted to bring awareness to the need for distributing game meat for veterans and their surviving spouses. Smith worked closely with the Billings ALR, and brought the concept of the “meat locker” to the local Post 16 chapter. The locker stores wild game to be distributed to veterans.

A raffle fundraiser is underway to cover processing costs and a freezer to contain donated wild game. Raffle tickets for a Ruger Charger, with pistol brace, will be available at the Legion until the drawing on Sept. 9. 

While some of the ALR’s responsibilities are behind the scenes, there are other, more visible, contributions to the community. 

“We paint and straighten up roadside crosses,” said Howell. He was referring to the single or clustered crosses representing those who died during their travels. Howell added, “We went almost out to Winnett last year.” 

Previously maintained by American Legion members, the maintenance of highway crosses was transferred to ALR last year.

Another activity ALR members are proud to offer is escorting veterans to their final resting place.  

“If somebody needs an escort we would like to do that,” said Howell.

For more information on becoming a member or requesting an ALR escort, stop by on a meeting night or call the local American Legion Chapter at 538-9086.

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