American Legion Riders re-created a special trip through Kansas in honor of 100th anniversary; they stopped Saturday for a banner-signing at Pratt American Legion Post 86 before continuing on to Great Bend.
The roar of motorcycle engines pierced the morning air as more than 30 American Legion Riders gathered in Pratt on Saturday, Aug. 4 in celebration of the 100-year-anniversary of the American Legion in the U.S. While at the Pratt stop, those in attendance signed a special banner, the focus of a special ceremony at the end of their ride in Great Bend.
American Legion Riders from across the United States were on a tribute ride and were traveling in two groups, one starting in Texas at the U.S. Mexico boarder and one starting in North Dakota at the U.S. Canadian boarder, on U.S. 281 and met up in Great Bend in a reenactment of a similar American Legion event 100 years ago that traveled the same route but in cars, said Legion Post 86 Squadron Commander Jay Wirick.
Wirick said U.S. 281, that is 1,875 miles long, was specifically selected for the first ride and the recreation because it was the same highway used 100 years ago. U.S. 281 was named the American Legion Highway in 1965. The riders stopped along the way at American Legion Posts that were 100 years old including Pratt American Legion Post 86 that has 82 members.
The group from Texas stopped in Pratt late Sunday morning on Aug. 4 for refreshments and visit with Pratt’s Post 86 Legion and Legion Auxiliary members.
Both the North Dakota and Texas groups are carrying a banner. At each stop along the way, the local post commanders and members of the local Legion sign the banner. Both banners were presented to the American Legion National Commander Brett Reinstadt in a ceremony at Great Bend.
Riding with the Texas group was Steve Sweet, American Legion National Vice Commander for the Midwest Region. Sweet, who is from Post 32 in Greenville, Miss., said since this was the 100-year-anniversary of the American Legion, the reenactment of the original ride on U.S. 281 would be a good way to celebrate the event. This year’s route, with a couple of minor exceptions, is the same one done on the original event.
Sweet said both groups have tracking devices to make sure they come together in Great Bend after their five-day journeys.
Hollywood Legion Post 43 member Jeric Wilhelmsen is providing video feed of the event as they travel and visit Legion Posts.
A similar anniversary ride event is scheduled with the women in the American Legion Auxiliary that has 28 members. Auxiliary members from across the country will travel in two car motorcades, one from the U.S. Canadian boarder and the U.S. Mexico boarder and meet up in Great Bend just like the Legion Riders, said Theresa Weathers, President of Legion Auxiliary Post 86.
Also traveling Legion Highway U.S. 281, the Texas Auxiliary group will have a brief stopover in Pratt for lunch or supper. Plans are still being solidified but the Auxiliary group is expected to arrive in Pratt sometime during Sept. 16-18.
Like the Legion, the Auxiliary is non-profit and raises funds through various activities including bake sales, garage sales, raffles and other events. The funds are used to help veterans and their families. If someone needs help paying utility bill, paying for groceries, getting to a doctor’s appointment or other need, the Auxiliary is ready to step in and help anyway they can.
“We’re all about helping the community,” Weathers said.
Anyone that has served in the United States military is eligible to join the American Legion.
Besides celebrating the American Legion 100-year-anniversary, the Tribute Ride is to let American military know that the Legion thanks them and appreciates everything they do.
The Legion, Sons, Auxiliary and Riders are all part of the American Legion family and their mission is to be there for veterans.
“We help veterans and their families,” Wirick said.
The Legion has Legacy scholarships available for dependents of veterans killed since 9-11 or were 50 percent disabled. In 2018, the Legion raised $1.3 million in a Legacy run.
Next up for the Pratt Legion is a fundraiser bull fry event at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10 at the Legion hall. Cost is $15 per plate, Children 10-5 are $5 and children under 5 are free. Chicken strips will be available as well. Proceeds from this event will go to purchase more paint for the ongoing remodel.
Tickets for the bull fry are available from Rob Fuzzell at 620-408-2777.