National Legion Riders History
In Garden City, Mich., in 1993, Chuck “Tramp” Dare and Bill “Polka” Kaledas, commander of American Legion Post 396, shared an idea to start a motorcycle enthusiasts’ association within the organization. The two longtime riders wanted an environment where Legion family members could come together to share a common love for motorcycles.
Dare and Kaledas wrote a letter to Michigan Department Adjutant Hubert Hess, sharing their idea. Hess replied that he liked the concept and wanted to pursue it. Later, he gave Kaledas and Dare instructions for managing the program at the post level. He also explained how they could be approved to use the American Legion emblem, and how to gain Membership’s support and recognition. At a regular meeting, Post 396 members passed a resolution for a new program to be known as the “American Legion Riders.”
Joined by 19 other founding members from their post, Dare and Kaledas were flooded with requests for information about their organization. They agreed to establish a central source for the Riders to ensure that chapters formed not as motorcycle clubs or gangs, but as Legionnaires, Auxiliary and SAL members joining to ride as Legion family.
Florida Legion Riders History
In 2002 there was talk at the Department of Florida Convention of starting a Motorcycle Riders Organization made up of Legion, Auxiliary and SAL member. Nothing really took shape until the Fall Conference in 2002 where Department Commander Clarence Hill announced the process of how to start a Legion Riders Chapter for those Posts that were interested. Soon after Post 75 in Crestview was the 1st Chapter of the Florida ALR to form, followed quickly by many new Chapters in the area and state.
The 1st ALR Chairman (coordinator at that time) was Steve Lugenbeel from Chapter 75. The 1st meeting was held at the Convention in July of 2004. After a few years and growth, the need was great for Chapter By-Laws and rules governing patches and the distinction between motorcycle association and motorcycle club.
The next ALR Chairman was Bill Davis from Lehigh Acres, he organized the 1st Legion Rider Run held at the Fall Conference in Tampa 2006.
In 2007 Jimmy Lee Martin would take over and focus on a central email system and improving communication with all the Chapters in Florida. Also established under Jimmy Lee was a link for ALR on Departments webpage, District Chairman, and Post Chapter Directors. The ALR in Florida was growing rapidly and under Jimmy Lee Martin much needed guidance and organization was created.
During that same time frame the National American Legion made it official and the ALR became a “program” of The American Legion. After the dust settled the Florida ALR regrouped and pressed forward. Mike Amig took over and continued to build commination from 2009-2011. He was followed by Bill Yabor 2011-2012, Scott Grabnar 2012-2013, Mike “Goat” Kirchoff 2013-2014, Jim Burke 2014-2015, George Gasparini 2015-2016 and Jim Day 2016 to present.