About 50 volunteers came together at the Pottsboro American Legion Post 231 to make ready for 600 lunch visitors. We’ve been working on this for months said Post Commander Gary Winters.
The 2013 American Legion Legacy Run made a stop at the Pottsboro location on the shore of beautiful Lake Texoma for lunch and a little respite before continuing the journey to Houston that started Sunday in Indianapolis. The goal is to raise more than $450,000.
A few came in four-wheel vehicles but most rode on two or three wheels.
More than 20 gallons of spaghetti sauce was ready for the spaghetti lunch reported Doug Keeter, one of the volunteers and a member of the AL post. “I don’t want to cook anymore noodles,” he said. “I’m glad to be out of the kitchen today.” Keeter’s job Tuesday was to drive a golf cart to shuttle attendees from the distanced parking area to the AL site. There is ample parking available for the American Legion post, but it was reserved for motorcycles. And those 500 motorcycles did a good job filling up the designated space.
Local volunteers had the process down to a science and managed to get everyone fed and ready to mount up again in less than two hours.
National American Legion Commander Jim Koutz participated in the ride and was proud to announce he’ll be riding the whole way on the back of a motorcycle. Since he doesn’t have a motorcycle of his own, he hasn’t joined the American Legion Riders (subgroup of the American Legion) but he said he intends to correct that when he gets home. He said he’s already thinking about the motorcycle he’ll buy. The AL Riders presented him with his own rider’s vest before the group departed Indianapolis. Some in the group suggested Koutz will be the first national commander to make the whole ride since it started seven years ago.
The Legacy Run is all about raising scholarship money for children of fallen military, Koutz, veteran of the Vietnam conflict reported. “It’s the American Legion way,” he said. “We take care of the families of men and women killed in action. They sacrificed so much for us and we owe this to their families.”
The American Legion website www.legion.org/riders/scholarship describes the scholarship fund, “As an unfortunate consequence of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the global war on terror, many children of our active-duty military personnel are now members of single-parent families. We are raising funds to ensure that higher education will be a reality for these families… It is estimated that over 11,000 children have lost a parent in the war overseas. That number continues to grow each day. The Legion is actively working to ensure that all those children who want a post-secondary education will be provided one.”
Texas State Commander Jim Fleming of Anna explained the age of most of those killed since 911 are young with young families. “We want to make sure that all of those young children have the opportunity for college if they want it,” he said. Fleming said he’s been on the Legacy ride every year since its beginning. “We want to get $20 million in the Legacy fund to be able to take care of these young ones and guarantee they’ll be able to attend college.”
Koutz also commented on the overwhelming support the riders have seen since leaving Indianapolis. “We’ve seen people lined up on overpasses and on the sides of the roads, waving flags and cheering us on. And this is no small procession. We stretch from front to end about two-and-a-half miles.”
When the riders pulled into Pottsboro, Koutz said $200 thousand had been collected. And while there, Koutz accepted several presentations of donations from various groups from across the U.S. Among them was $1,400 from the Van Alstyne post No. 376 presented by Sean Trotter and several presentations from the Pottsboro post made by Jimmy Don Dixon, commander for the local Sons of the American Legion and Christy Pelley, president of the local American Legion Auxiliary. When a presentation was made from a Missouri group, the presenter said he’s talked to a number of people while on the way to Pottsboro. He said, “When I tell them what we’re raising funds for, they just pull cash out of their pockets and give it to me.” He said this as he pulled $20 bills from his own pocket to add to his donations.
Koutz said donations are still being accepted on line if anyone is interested in helping with the scholarships. They just need to go to the website at www.legion.org.
Among the representatives from across the U.S., some as far as Wisconsin, Oregon, Connecticut and Florida, were two who came across the sea to ride with the American Legion Riders. Paul “L.J.” Littlejohn and Dave Gibson flew from England and rented motorcycles to take this trip. Littlejohn said it was his first time to make the journey but Gibson participated in 2010. “It’s my chance to ride across American with my brothers in arms,” Littlejohn, veteran of the Army, said of his reasons for being here. Military service doesn’t stop with him in his family. He said his son is a Royal Air Force squadron leader.
Littlejohn said emotions were high for him Sunday when he looked up and saw the sign telling him the Mississippi River was ahead. “All I can tell you is my smile was from ear to ear. Here I am crossing the mighty Mississippi River.” He said with his lilting English accent it was too difficult to name a favorite experience or location since the group left Indianapolis. “There are just too many great experiences.”
One thing that stands out for Littlejohn is being with so many veterans, “It’s brilliant,” he said with a huge smile. “They’ve shown us (he and Gibson) the true meaning of brothers in arms. I spent my 61st birthday (Sunday) with the best group of brothers you possibly could.”
Paul Mattoon of Van Alstyne started out in Indiana with the riders but said he was going home after the Pottsboro stop. “My fun meter has tilted,” he said. “The camaraderie has been out of this world and hospitality has been overwhelming. I didn’t expect to see so many good Americans. Hearing so much from the liberal press, I thought Texas was the only state that is sane, but no. We’ve seen great Americans along the whole way.”
This has been Mattoon’s first Legacy Run but he expects it won’t be his last.
The American Legion Annual Convention for 2013 will be held in Houston Friday through Aug. 29. It’s the Legionnaires largest meeting and is held in a different city each year. The Legacy Run ends in the city of the convention, but it always starts out in Indianapolis “because that’s the home of the American Legion,” reported Fleming.
“It’s been a great honor to be one of the host sites for the Legacy Run this year,” said Post Commander Winters. “To participate in something like this…Benefits for the children make it very special. It brings chills to my spine when I think about it.” Winters said he’s ready to start on the next event but not until he and the other volunteers get some rest.