by MICHAEL DASHIELL
When a brother falls, they respond.
Jeff McFarland and his fellow motorcycle riders often don’t know the veteran for whom they’re folding American flags or constructing missing-man formations or escorting a funeral in what they call a “last ride.”
It’s all part of the brotherhood, McFarland says.
“I want to be part of this group,” he says. “All these guys are my brothers-in-arms. I want to be there for them and stand them for them … and say goodbye to them.”
McFarland is post commander for American Legion Riders, Walter Akeley Post 29, a group of veterans and spouses who share a passion for their modes of transport, and even more for their veteran cohorts.
The group started more than three years ago with a little more than handful, McFarland says, maybe eight riders.
“Most of us rode with other groups who did that same kind of stuff … (so we) started our own,” he says.
Now that group is up to 60 to 70 regular riders and it’s a busy group: McFarland guesses they’re involved in as many as four events per week. That includes flag lines and flag-folding ceremonies, motorcycle escorts and funerals, riding in fundraising “Poker Runs” and more. They raise funds for a number of community programs, including Healthy Families of Clallam County.
“We go to a lot of funerals; sometimes you only ride a few miles,” McFarland says. “Families in the area are really pleased. Some people don’t know about that (service).”
The purpose of the American Legion Riders, according to the group’s website, is “to promote and support programs of the American Legion. These include, but are not limited to, participation in parades, charities, veterans issues, and keeping with aims and purposes of the American Legion.”
That mission also includes calling for “an accounting of ALL Prisoners of War and those missing in action and to honor the memory of those killed in action,” according to the site.
Group members are not only veterans (or spouses of veterans) but members of the American Legion, Auxiliary groups and/or Sons of the American Legion.
The American Legion Riders Association is a nationwide group started in 1993. It now boasts about 106,000 in more than 1,000 chapters across the country.
With millions of veterans to honor, the American Legion Riders aren’t idle by any stretch, says McFarland, a Port Angeles resident.
“Each veteran signs the line (to) give up our life,” McFarland says. “There’s not a lot of people (who) honor that tradition. We as fellow veterans honor that.
“It’s not about us, it’s about them.”
See www.alpost29.com for American Legion Riders elbigibility requirements.