I had the distinct pleasure to meet with the State Chair “Poncho” Serrano, Mike “Chaplain” Smith and Joe Calabro all American Legion members and American Legion Riders last month to talk about What does it mean to be a part of the American Legion in 2019.
As a daughter of a Vietnam veteran, I had only heard negative about the Legion and the VFW, my dad still carries today bad memories of what those organizations stood for when he returned from war and doesn’t want to entertain the idea of coming to the New 2019 American Legion.
I have to say that I was extremely impressed when I have visited Post 178 (Lakewood) and Post 22 in (Northglenn) each time the members were inviting and greeting and the stigma that I was expecting was no-where to found. In April of this year, I have also attended and event at ALR Post 35 in Chandler Arizona what I saw was a young, organized group of veterans ready to help any and all veterans in need, no matter what war you came from.
The ALRs is a program within The American Legion. We are Legionaries who ride motorcycles. Each ALR program is sponsored by an American Legion Post. A person can be a member of the ALR if they are a member of the American Legion, Sons of the American Legion or Auxiliary. We commonly refer to this as our Post family. So, if you’re not a veteran, don’t think you can’t join us. If you have a relative that served, such as a parent or grandparent, then there’s a chance you may still qualify to join our family. Check with your local post and learn more. We love signing up new members. The ALR is the fastest growing part of the American Legion and has had a great effect on Legion membership. We currently have about 35 ALR charters in the state of Colorado and growing.
What do we do? Well we ride for military veteran causes and do great things for our community and youth. We raise funds for all kinds of causes such as youth scholarship funds, veteran’s assistance funds, food pantry’s, homeless transition programs, veteran therapy programs. The list is huge, and we keep finding great things to support and promote. So many great things are happening in the Legion as well as outside the Legion. If it helps our veterans, we’re usually there to offer support.
We also take part in motorcycle escorts and honors for our fallen as well as participate in parades throughout the state. Most of us served in the military ourselves or have lived within the military family unit. We know the cost and it’s important that we remember the warriors and families that paid the ultimate price. We also support those that came home wounded with scars seen and unseen. We do our best to offer a network of support to those who are among us still fighting the battle in their minds.
Every year our riders raise money for the Legacy Scholarship Fund that helps pay for college for military families who lost a parent after 9/11 or who’s veteran parent has a 50% disabled rating or more. We do through what we call the Pony Express. Riders go across the state from post to post collecting funds with the Pony Express satchel. This all takes place in one fun weekend and we’ve had great success with it and have collected record amounts every year.
The new face of the Legion are veterans from more recent wars, and they aren’t in the shadows, they are involved, engaged and ready to be involved. They have a home now away from home, where they can hang with their own and get thru those moments that flashback to them and feel a part of something.
I ask any veteran who is looking for somewhere to call home, to give the American Legion a try and come to a few meetings. If you like to ride, the American Legion Riders are involved and regularly meet and go for rides to help other veterans and local charities.
To find out more information, please contact the
American Legion Department of Colorado, 7465 E 1st Ave D, Denver, CO 80230 — (303) 366-5201
Please take a moment to read about what these veterans have found being part of the American Legion.
Joe Calabro (Road Captain) – American Legion Post 178, Lakewood Colorado
I didn’t even know the American Legion Riders existed. As a veteran of the first Gulf War, I was interested in veteran’s issues. So, in 2004 when I got a letter from the American Legion, I thought that would be a good way to support veterans. At my very first Legion meeting someone noticed that I had ridden my motorcycle to the meeting and told me that American Legion Post 178 had a Riders Chapter. I went to their meeting the next Saturday and have been a member ever since. What drew me to the American Legion Riders was that it is a volunteer organization that does a lot in the community to support veterans and their families. Between raising money for charities, standing in flag lines at funerals to honor our departed brothers and sisters and their families, or bringing food to disabled veterans, the Am. Legion Riders gave me a feeling of purpose and a way to help other veterans and their families. There is no better feeling than when the family member of a fallen veteran gives you heartfelt “Thank You” for standing in a flag line, in boots that were not made for standing, to honor their family member. It is a small price to pay. As a long time, motorcycle rider, I also enjoy the charity poker runs, the parades, and the brotherhood that only riders understand. No matter if you served, or if it was your Father or Grandfather, the American Legion Riders is a great place to support our veterans and their families.
Michael Wilson – American Legion Post 22, Northglenn, Colorado
When I was 6 my uncle came over to the house in his dress blues, he was a full bird Colonial. The instant I saw him I told my dad that I would one day proudly wear that uniform. At age 19 I entered boot camp to become that proud Marine. My intent was to make it a 20-year career. After 6 years I decided against it, a decision that I have regretted to this day. That was back in the day that if you entered the military you were pretty much guaranteed a free trip to Vietnam.
While in Vietnam as a combat radio operator I saw more than my fair share of action. 13 months in country left me a broken man. I left many friends over there. The good lord above saw fit to let me come home and I swore that I would spend my life doing good for others and I would take care of my fellow veterans that were not given all that I was lucky enough to be granted. I knew that I needed to share my experiences in an attempt to self-heal. That is when I found the American Legion. The Legion is a place where we can go to re-bond as brothers and share stories without being judged. Of course, we tease each other about our different branches and that’s OK for us but God help any outsider who would do any one of us harm. I have made many lifelong friends due to my affiliation with the American Legion, if you’re a member of ANY post you are a member of every post around the world and welcome everywhere.
I am a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast but have never had any inclination to join an MC. I have always told anyone who would listen that “I am one of the good guys”, our Legion chapter started an ALR (American Legion Riders) some 4 years ago that I have become intimately involved with it and plan to remain a member for life. We ride for our brothers who cannot, we raise funds for veterans and their families, and we do many motorcycle dignified honors escort services for our departed brothers.
Even if you are not personally a veteran there are various ways you may be eligible. We encourage your interest. There are American Legion posts in just about every city in Colorado. Come on down.
Frank “Poncho” Serrano – Colorado ALR State Committee Chairman
In 2014 my riding buddy and I were looking into joining a riding group and we ran across the American Legion Riders. The more we learned, the more it seemed to be a good fit for us. We are both military veterans and liked the idea of riding for veteran causes. Our local Post didn’t have a Riders program, so we were asked to start one. It began with about 8 of our closest riding friends and in 3 years, it grew to around 70 members. Not only did our rider group grow but our post did as well. From around 60 members to over 260. It has had a positive impact on our Falcon Colorado community since 2014 and we’ve been able to do great things for our local veterans ever since.