Bob and Laura Iversen, Newell, recently returned from an 1,800-mile American Legion motorcycle ride to raise scholarship funds for the children of fallen soldiers. The Iversens participated in the entire five-day Legacy Run while some rode only a portion of the trip. Some 300 riders were involved overall. This is the third annual ride.
"We made a commitment to America, to our American Legion families, a commitment to our fallen comrades' families...that any child of a soldier killed in active duty in a global war of terror will have the opportunity to go to college," said one of the members of the group, blogging the experience on the computer. "We're going to make sure that happens. It's a $20 million commitment that the American Legion families made to America and made to our fallen comrades and that's what we're about - doing the right thing."
This year's goal was set at $350,000 - the group surpassed that by nearly $200,000 and the total is still rising.
Bob Iversen, a retired 20-year National Guardsman, is an active member of the Storm Lake American Legion Post #115. He served in Iraq in 2004-05.
Iversen is a member of the American Legion Riders, VFW Post #6172 as well as the Patriot Guard Riders. The Riders attend funerals of fallen soldiers, forming a flag line and support the families.
Laura said the experience was awesome and it was amazing at how the event was so well organized.
The motorcycles were grouped into 25 with one serving as a "road captain" to make sure everyone was accounted for at fuel and eating stops. The motorcycles rode as one group, warned to keep their distance close so cars could not fit between them. Traveling on interstates, the other vehicles stayed on the left side of the road unless they needed to make an exit. The group filled about a three-mile area.
The participants started in Indianapolis, Ind. and traveled to Saint Robert, Mo. the first day, traveling to Oklahoma City, Ok. the second day, on to Tucumcari, NM the third day, to Gallup, NM the fourth day and into Phoenix, Ariz. where the National Legion Convention was taking place. A majority of this year's run was on Route 66. traveling also on I-44 and I-40, portions of which have been designated parts of the historic route and a scenic run across the Salt River Canyon and into the Phoenix area.
Each morning began with everyone gathering for a prayer, led by the overall road captain, "Uncle" Dick, who did a great deal of the organizing.
The event received a great deal of media coverage in the areas where the motorcyclists were traveling. They were greeted kindly and patriotically throughout the trip. Flags were draped across overpasses, people waved small flags at them and waved or honked, in support of their efforts and in support of the fallen soldiers.
Fueling stops brought curious people to them with checks, dollars and coins. "I couldn't believe how generous people were," Laura said.
Off the interstates, the participants ate together at legion clubs along the way. She commented that a Texas legion club fed them "tremendously", gave them a check for the legacy fund, a Texas flag signed by all the members of the post and paid to fill up every single motorcycle with fuel.
Checks were also presented from the other legion posts that hosted them along the way.
While riding through New Mexico, two motorcycle state police rode with them and when they reached Albuquerque, law enforcement blocked every entrance to I40 so the nearly 300 motorcycles were the only vehicles on the road.
"When we arrived at Post 99 for lunch," it was reported in a blog posted on he computer, "it looked like a New Mexico State Trooper/Albuquerque Police convention" with all the police cars and motorcycles. "The New Mexico roads leave a lot to be desired but the New Mexico law enforcement gives a new meaning to 'police support.'"
The group ran in to a downpour of rain in Oklahoma but soldiered on, and the remainder of the trip was beautiful.
The ride began each morning at around 7:30 but the morning they were to ride into Arizona, they began before the sun came up as to avoid the high temperatures.
Written in the blog was this account. "When we left New Mexico, Dick had promised a really great ride through Salt River Canyon but I don't think any of us were ready for the gorgeous ride we had. Canyons, rock bluffs, 25 MPH curves."
The donations that the riders collected were turned in at the convention. Currently there is nearly $2.1 million in the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Trust Fund. During 2007, the interest was used to fund $36,000 in scholarship awards. The American Legion Legacy Scholarship has awarded a total of $74,000 in scholarship aid since 2004. Obviously, the more money that the Legacy can raise to put into the Scholarship Fund, the more interest will be available each year for scholarship awards. If there was enough money in the fund, full college scholarships could be awarded each year.
The Iversens are thrilled they could be a part of the Legacy Run and strongly believe in its purpose.
"Think how many kids this money can help," said Laura. "It was awesome especially the people we met. They came from almost every state and from all types of different jobs. I'd do it again."
You can help. Send your tax-deductible contributions to:
The American Legacy Run P.O. Box 1055 Indianapolis, IN 46206
Please mark the checks as donations to "The American Legacy Run."