Motorcycle veterans pay respect to War Veterans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008

They look like a gang of Hell’s Angels wearing leather jackets or vests, multiple tattoos, long hair (some with graying ponytails) and creased faces sporting that Charles Bronson ruggedness all riding every possible color and style Harley but these bad boys have three amazing things in common.  One…a love of country that only those who have actually placed their lives on the line for it can truly appreciate. (In this case, they are all Vietnam or Desert Shield/Desert Storm veterans.)  Two…they have hearts the size of the superdome and I mean each one and not collectively, and Three…they care about our war-time veterans in that special “brotherly” way that even the most genuine and caring staff can’t compete with.  As much as I love and respect our veterans, I see it!  They have a different look in their eyes when they gaze upon a fellow veteran.  Their touch or handshake carries an extra element that mine lacks from never being in war as they know it!

As I waited in my office that memorable morning, I heard the roar of their magnificent motorcycles approaching. They’re a tight-knit group of men and their “women” from organizations such as the Vietnam Veterans’ Motorcycle Club, Legacy Veterans M/C, Black Sheep (Tangi) M/C and Gypsy M/C.  They share a common cause: to touch the lives of older, fellow veterans and let them know they care.  Legacy prospect member James Moore helped to coordinate the event.  It was just a few weeks ago that he called me wanting his group to adopt a soldier, airman or Marine…someone that needed a family.  “How could I pick just one”, I pondered.  That’s like telling a parent that he’s got five children all who need kidneys but only one donated kidney to give.  Which one do you save?  So I gave him a choice of almost 100 of our veterans from the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home and gave him the brutal task of selecting the lucky winner.  Well, as I hoped, the group couldn’t select just one or two.  They would joined forces with other groups and adopt all of our retired veterans of war.

 I was astonished to learn just how many of our own veterans owned motorcycles themselves in their earlier years, long ago.  Excitement and interest in the “bikes” and bikers was evident as one by one, our veterans headed out the doors, most in wheelchairs, heading toward the parking lot to see the younger veterans’ “cool” motorcycles.On every wing of our facility, members of the biking groups along with their supportive and just as caring female companions mixed and mingled with their older, respected counte  parts.  They insisted on meeting each one, especially our POWs and our more needy veterans.  It was a touching, tender sight to see the blend.  Throw in    some patriotic music in the background such as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” that Sonya Aucoin, our Activities Director, piped in over the facility intercom and well…folks, I had to grab a Kleenex now and then!

 After all the veterans were visited but before the group left, James Moore, who worked with us to coordinate the event, took up a collection to buy raffle tickets (see photo).  As if their mere presence and affecting touch were not enough, they emptied their pockets and handed me $50 in bills. As they rode off, I couldn’t help but hear faintly yet powerfully in the background, Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” playing in my head.