By Phil ReidingerOctober 15, 2009
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Motorcycles roared through Fort Sam Houston's Binz-Engleman gate when 68 riders representing 18 chapters from New Mexico delivered toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, and clothing items including sweats, tennis shoes, and children's games and puzzles during their fourth annual visit Oct. 8 to the Warrior and Family Support Center.
Riders also donated items to Fort Sam Houston and Lackland Air force Base Fisher Houses.
Aaron Dean, president of the New Mexico American Legion Riders and ride coordinator, said the group will begin organizing next year's visit beginning Oct. 24.
"We have a committee comprised of members of each chapter," he said, adding that Judith Markelz, program manager for WFSC, advises the committee on items needed by the wounded warriors and their Families.
"With her advice we are able to purchase items in bulk and are confident that we are donating items that are really needed," said Dean.
Riders come from all areas of New Mexico. They start in Carlsbad and Las Cruces and then rally at Fort Stockton, Texas before continuing to San Antonio. It is a long ride that begins Oct. 5 for the Carlsbad riders and Oct. 6 for the Las Cruces riders.
After an overnight stay at Fort Stockton, riders stop again at Comfort, Texas for a barbecue that has been hosted by the community for the last two years.
Dean noted that after talking to wounded warriors and their Family members during previous visits, he responded to requests for Army & Air Force Exchange Service gift cards in addition to traditional store gift cards because the AAFES gift cards are more convenient for use at the FSH Post Exchange.
"We will continue to provide support as long as needed," Dean said. "The American Legion chapters plan the trip and enjoy the ride. Everyone pays their own way. The new Warrior and Family Support Center is a beautiful building. We had a hard time getting the women out of the kitchen and the guys enjoyed the comfort of the media room chairs after a hard two-day ride."