Dual role: Members who are part of ALA and Legion Riders (Part 1)

Posted On: Friday, 16 February 2024

Thank you to everyone who responded to our callout for American Legion Auxiliary members who are also American Legion Riders! We received a truly phenomenal response from ALA members who ride and support the mission from the road. We featured a few members in the February 2024 Auxiliary magazineand now we’re spotlighting even more Legion Riders through this two-part blog series. 
They often travel in groups, wearing black leather vests adorned with the emblems of The American Legion Family. American flags are attached to the backs of their motorcycles, proudly waving in the breeze as members make their way to their next destination to honor our nation’s veterans or support local children.
They are the American Legion Riders.
Throughout the country, many of our own American Legion Auxiliary members are also Riders. Even our 2023-2024 National President Lisa Williamson is a Rider. 
Some of these members ride their own bikes, and others ride with a spouse or friend. 
Linda Wentling 
Department of Kansas

As an ALA member, what motivated you to become a Legion Rider?
I enjoy group riding. In 2019, I moved to Kansas and began the search of people to ride with. Boy did I hit the jackpot of camaraderie! I learned I could become an ALA/ALR member through my dad’s service. I had no clue the journey I was about to set foot on. 

What do you enjoy about being a Legion Rider?
I find purpose and fulfillment in the Riders. Every year leaves footprints in my soul. I’ve participated at Woodland Park Vet Rally, Quilts of Valor, Run22, Fort Dodge Solider Home, Legacy Ride, Big Red One Turkey Run, Operation North Pole, Be the One, post flag line, and more. Year-end always brings delight, having made new friends along with new patches, pins, bracelets, and challenge coins — remembering the people, places, and learning all the time. I’m definitely looking forward to the coming years. 

Tina Hurst    

Department of Mississippi

As an ALA member, what motivated you to become a Legion Rider?
American Legion Riders is what brought me into the Auxiliary when my son was deployed. My husband also served, and he is a state charter member and former state director. I actually joined the Auxiliary and the Riders at the same time in 2007. My husband, Mike, is a Navy veteran and our son, Brandon, was serving active duty in the Gulf at that time. A local soldier had been killed in action and we were headed to participate in that Patriot Guard Riders escort. When we stopped for lunch, Rider members were at the restaurant and suggested we ride over with them. We spent the rest of the day standing flag lines at the airport and funeral home. The next day, we were at the national cemetery. We were then invited to the next post family meeting. We attended the meeting and immediately felt relief. You see, we hadn't heard from our son in quite a while, and these people understood. They welcomed us in, stood with us in our worry, prayed with us, held our hands, and circled us with the camaraderie only those who had been there could know. We joined that evening. Legion, Auxiliary (put our daughter in Junior Auxiliary), and we all became American Legion Riders. 

What do you enjoy about being a Legion Rider?
Since that time, I have found multiple ways to serve through the Auxiliary and the Riders. No matter what event is going on at our post home, the Riders are the core. It is the true “family” part of the Legion Family. We are all equals and there is no rank among us! Serving in every position in the Auxiliary from unit through district, department, and as National Executive Committee member gave me the opportunity to bring the Riders to the forefront in the Mississippi Auxiliary. When the Mississippi American Legion department commander appointed me to the position of Mississippi State American Legion Riders director, it was a humbling experience. As a state charter member in 2007, I never expected to be the first Auxiliary member to hold this position and am looking forward to new ways to serve our veterans and their families. I could never have dreamed serving over these years would give me the memories, sisterhood, and camaraderie I enjoy today.  
Jean Stout 
Department of Florida

As an ALA member, what motivated you to become a Legion Rider?
I joined the Riders because I love riding my motorcycle. Being a Rider member gives me yet another opportunity to give back to our veterans while having fun.

What do you enjoy about being a Legion Rider? 
The group is a fun group of guys and gals who enjoy motorcycle riding. Since my husband is a Rider also, we have the opportunity to work together in this group of the Legion Family. I also have had the opportunity to meet a lot of other chapters by attending the American Legion Rider summit.

MaryAnn Hanzel-Balak 

Department of Ohio

As an ALA member, what motivated you to become a Legion Rider?  
I love to ride — I love to help where I can, and riding gives me opportunities to participate in fundraisers to help our veterans and their families.

What do you enjoy about being a Legion Rider?  
I love the friendships I’ve made and the feeling of family.

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.