by Bob Shumer
American Legion Post 284
Few are the occasions that present the chance to have the adventure of a lifetime, but for one local veteran and Post 284 American Legion Rider, this June provided just such an opportunity. At the invitation of the Royal British Legion Riders Branch, Jim Althouse of American Legion Post 284 in Colonial Heights and several others flew to London, England, hired motorcycles, and spent eight days riding with their British veteran counterparts on the Allied Poppy Run.
Designed to be similar to the American Legion Legacy Run but with a historic twist, the Poppy Run supports the Poppy Appeal, which is a prime fundraiser for the British Legion.
The group of riders departed England on a ferry bound for Normandy, France, and for the first few days followed the path of the Allied advance after the D-Day invasion 68 years ago. Stops included the beaches of Normandy, the Falaise Gap, Paris, Verdun, Bastogne and Ypres, Belgium, before returning via ferry to the cliffs of Dover and the end point, the Battle of Britain Memorial.
The highpoint of the trip came in Ypres, when Althouse and other riders participated in The Last Post at the Menin Gate Memorial. It is a traditional final salute to the fallen, played by the buglers in honor of the memory of the soldiers of the former British Empire and their allies, who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War. The names of 54,389 fallen warriors with no known grave engraved on the Memorial’s walls formed the backdrop as the riders marched forward with the U.S. Flag and laid a wreath of poppies at the steps, the first American group to do so in many years. The silence of the crowd of hundreds of onlookers sent chills up the spines of the riders. The adventure finally came to an end with many new friendships and a strong desire of the Royal British Legion Riders to come ride the roads of Virginia.
American Legion Riders chapters are well known for their charitable work, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local children’s hospitals, schools, veterans homes, severely wounded service members and scholarships.