From the Chair
The Department of Florida American Legion Riders (ALR) has established an annual motorcycle ride on the 3rd Saturday of September, ending at the National POW/MIA Memorial for the POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony. This Ride is called the Seven Bridges POW/MIA Remembrance Ride because it traverses the seven bridges that cross the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, FL. It is limited to only 250 motors by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and this year, we filled our quota.
First, I want to thank all the volunteers who helped make this event the huge success that it was. So many were working behind the scenes anonymously, and if I listed all, it would be quite extensive. However, I want to thank Ling Christensen for making hotel arrangements with the special group rate, a significant savings over normal room cost. Bekki Tibbs, Jennifer Cooper, and Carrie Kolze from the Department for their support with the website, registration form, etc. I want to thank the ALR Department Chairman, Jim Wineland, and his adjutant, Beverly Wooten, for their efforts and assistance in allowing me to organize this fantastic event. The registration/parking volunteers are Al Yardley, Dave Glabb, Vicky Glabb, Tim Pratt, Denise Strickland, Brian Kay, Stuart Scott, and Amanda Sue. Kathy Church with the MIAP and The Rolling Thunder FL for providing and distributing water at the Chapel. Post/ALR 283 for hosting the Meet and greet and the after-event Social Hour. Adamec Harley Davidson for the use of their facility. To Berry Good Farms and Mission BBQ for the food truck and tent. The Jacksonville NROTC for their participation in Parading the Colors and performing the Missing Man Table Ceremony. Jim Steele for playing the bugle “Charge Call” at the beginning of the ride and Taps at the Ceremony. Mrs. Meghan Wagner, daughter of Iraqi POW/MIA Scott Speicher, was a special speaker during the ceremony. She was representing all the family members of former POW’s and MIA’s. Her recollection of the heartaches and heartbreaks family members go through was very insightful and touching. I want to give a big thank you to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Motor Officers, who did a fantastic job of keeping us safe on our 99.3-mile journey from Adamec Harley Davidson to the National POW/MIA Memorial. To all the people who helped with registration and parking, I thank you; it would have been chaos without your assistance.
It was evident The Department of Florida American Legion leadership fully supports Resolution 288. Again, with the size of the crowd, I’m sure I missed someone; however, of those I did see in attendance were Department Commander Michael Raymond, 1st Vice Commander Chris Hamrick, 2nd Vice Commander Jessica Moore, Chaplain Barry Roberts, Historian Edward Lewis, Eastern Area Commander, Joe Marcheggiani, Northern Area Commander Lena Heredia-Perez, District 3 Commander Stuart Scott, District 5 Commander Miguel Garcia representing the Legionnaires. Representing The American Legion Auxiliary Department of Florida, Department President Dee Bell, and District 5 President Julie Kay. Representing The Sons of The American Legion Detachment of Florida was Commander Gerard Sambets. If I missed someone, please accept my apologies in advance. For those who attended, I thank you. To my knowledge, this was the first opportunity for the top Legion family leadership to participate in the POW/MIA Ceremony together. Job well done, Florida! To view pictures and videos of the day’s events, visit https://www.facebook.com/FloridaAmericanLegionRiders and visit the 3rd Annual Seven Bridges POW/MIA Remembrance Day Ride & Ceremony album.
Now for the bad news: the lead JSO Motor Officer informed me the Sheriff of JSO has said this year will be the last police-escorted motorcycle ride his Department will participate in. We in the Department of Florida had a vision of growing this event into one of the premier events The American Legion participates in outside of our Legion Conventions and Conferences. We were there for the Groundbreaking Ceremony in 2019 on what will become the only National POW/MIA Memorial in the USA. A large part of our participation was to be the Seven Bridges POW/MIA Remembrance Ride and then attend the Ceremony at the Memorial. We all pay homage to the plight of POW/MIAs in accordance with Resolution 288 within our Post during Legion activities. However, we fail to get the word out to the community. By creating this ride, we can generate a lot of publicity for The American Legion while also paying respect to all POW/MIA’s and their families. These events are not only to honor and respect those affected but also to get the word out about the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s need for DNA samples from family members of former MIAs.
We need your help to continue our vision of keeping the POW/MIA Remembrance Day Ride and Ceremony a reality going forward. Without the Ride, I feel attendance at the Ceremony would be minimal compared to when the Legion family is involved, especially the ALR. Police Chief T.K. Waters grew up as a military dependent. His father was a Command Sergeant Major in the US Army. Let’s appeal to his military ties and patriotic spirit by contacting him and requesting he re-evaluate his decision to shut down this motorcycle ride centered on the remembrance, respect, and honor of our past Veteran POW/MIAs and their families through his wonderful city.
He can be reached at:
Sheriff T.K. Waters
501 E. Bay ST.
Jacksonville FL 32202
Comments / Feedback
Please be respectful if you send a letter or email to the Sheriff and/or his office. Thank you in advance.
If your Post did something significant for the National POW/MIA Recognition Day, I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to email me the particulars of the who, what, and where of your event.
I want to encourage all to visit The American Legion Department of Florida website, https://www.floridalegion.org/programs-services/powmia-remembrance/about/ to learn more about the POW-MIA program. Under the resources tab, you will find a link to the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), Library of Congress Vietnam Era POW-MIA Database, National League of POW-MIA Families, National Alliance of Families for the Return of America’s Missing Servicemen, and the POW-MIA Chairmans Manual. The link to the National American Legion website is under the Media tab: https://www.legion.org/honor/powmia
I also encourage you to visit the National POW-MIA Memorial and Museum website, https://powmiamemorial.org/, to follow the progress being made to complete this wonderful and only National POW-MIA Memorial being built here in Florida. As of the end of August 2023, Phase 1 lighting work is almost complete. Overhead lighting has been installed along with lighting of the aircraft and pads. Lights have been added to the replica of the Cicel Field runway, and all looks great.