Celebrating veterans’ love of motorcycles

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Celebrating veterans’ love of motorcycles
by Donna Teresa

America’s fascination with the motorcycle has grown through the decades, but there is one group who take the art of motorcycle riding to another level: the American Legion Riders of the 28th District.

The group was founded by past president Terry Baughman, an Army Vietnam veteran, who served from 1967 to 1971 with the 9th Infantry during the Tet Offensive in 1968 and with the 52nd Infantry attached to the U.S. Embassy. He has been a member of the riders since 1999 and a member of the American Legion for 20 years as a former post commander.

The beginning of this group may sound simple, but it has grown into something quite special.

“I heard about the Riders starting in Michigan and, having a Harley, I checked it out. The Riders is family oriented, just as its parent organization, The American Legion. Our members come from the Legion, Legion Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion…

     

“I started the Riders here to promote the Legion programs and increase group membership, and at the same time, still get to ride. However, I discovered a brotherhood that formed between members that I hadn’t felt since Vietnam. A bond began for those of us who served in Vietnam. It also extended to each member of the Riders,” said Baughman. “Now when we see each other at a meeting with many of us there or if only two are present, there is a welcome home hug. Every time we ride together is our parade.”

This parade of bikes has gathered a lot of attention and the group gets many requests from military groups, veteran events, parades, funerals, etc. Turning down an invitation almost never happens with this group, but coordinating their fundraising and bike calendar can be difficult at times.

“Many times we have to split our group up to cover two or three different events,” Baughman said. “We would like to have all one hundred Riders at every event but can’t, so there might only be ten or so at any event, but we try to cover everything we can. Some events we have been doing since we started our group when we only had a dozen riders but they count on us every year. As far as special requests, if there is a veteran need, we just ask each other and our motto is ‘make it happen.'”

The riders take their mission very seriously and one of their goals is to keep the POW/MIA issue alive in the memories of all Americans.

“Is there anyone who wouldn’t be concerned if their brother was missing and they had no idea of his whereabouts? Those are my brothers that are missing,” said Baughman. “Their families deserve a full accounting.”

During last year’s POW/MIA week, if you were anywhere near the Monterey County Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Salinas, you missed quite a vision. Standing by the soccer field, I looked up and saw a large group of people, walking slowly up the hill, and a silhouette of black that encircled the memorial. There wasn’t a sound on the soccer field because all eyes were on this group on the hill. People who were taking movies of their children suddenly moved their cameras to the direction of the hill to this majestic sight of those paying homage to their missing comrades. Time stood still at that moment.

Hollywood has had some memorable bikers like James Dean, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. However, the Central Coast lays claim to a group of bikers who have no star on the Walk of Fame, or an Academy Award. They perhaps have received the biggest reward of all, giving back to their community and still serving with pride.


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