They volunteered, served, deployed and retired. They are veterans, patriots, Legionnaires and Riders.
The patriotism and courage that pushed some veterans to serve in the military is what continues to drive them to serve in other capacities. Their love for their country and for service members fuels their unselfish desire to give back to their communities and to help those who take the oath of service, they say.
Being a Legion Rider allows them to bring together patriotism, brotherhood, service to others, community and the 1st Theater Sustainment Command.
For Rich Gano, Legion Riders Commander of American Legion Post 113 in Elizabethtown, service began in the early 1990s. He was working in a steel mill in Massillon, Ohio, when he decided he wanted to try something new. He also was starting to see many of the steel mills closing in America.
He had an idea of what life would be like as a soldier, because his father was a career soldier who retired at Fort Knox. He is part of a family who has served in every war, since, and including, the American Revolution.
Gano understands how lonely it can be deploying, spending holidays away from loved ones, and missing other momentous occasions. He served for 27½ years in various armor jobs. He deployed to Bosnia and to Saudi Arabia and Iraq for both Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Gano served alongside soldiers from 1st Theater Sustainment Command. Under the unit’s prior designation, 1st Corps Support Command, members deployed to Saudi Arabia in August 1990 as the support arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. This was to become the largest military operation since World War II.
He had the courage to make a career serving in the Army, and recognizes that soldiers today in the 1st TSC have that same courage and drive.
“That’s why I volunteer. I do know what it’s like serving in the Army and deploying,” Gano said.
They’re located in Elizabethtown, not far from the 1st TSC’s Fort Knox headquarters. With many soldiers retiring from the Army after service at Fort Knox, they are the largest American Legion in the state. The post’s Legion Riders are a sub group of Legionnaires who enjoy biking and tie in much of their volunteering with group rides.
They said it is important for everyone to understand they’re here to help soldiers, spouses, civilians and families.
Kristen Small, 1st TSC soldier and Family Readiness Group volunteer, and recently awarded Army Central 2020 Volunteer of the Year, also volunteers at the American Legion. While she was helping with a Bingo night, Gano asked her if there was anything the Riders could do to help the 1st TSC.
Small took the idea back to the rest of the SFRG. They came up with a plan together, and the American Legion Post 113 Legion Riders officially adopted the unit.
“It was a quick, unanimous vote,” said Bobby Castle, Legion Riders director. “Everyone wanted to adopt the 1st TSC.”
What does that mean? The American Legion Riders vowed to take care of any volunteer requests they can for the unit.
“This is what we do,” Gano said.
“We volunteer, and we want to take care of our brothers and sisters at the 1st TSC,” Gano added.
Castle also worked in armor and retired as a first sergeant from the Army after serving 23 years. He deployed for Desert Storm and Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Castle recalled that as a first sergeant, he wouldn’t ask anything of soldiers that he wasn’t willing to do himself. Perhaps that’s why he makes no big deal of being available any time of day or night for a fellow veteran or active duty soldier. Castle is passionate about his service and his patriotism.
“One of my most memorable rides was last October when we escorted a service member killed in action back to his home in Indiana,” Castle said.
“It was about 29 degrees outside, but 350 Legion Riders from throughout the area escorted the fallen service member,” he added.
Castle said the family was overwhelmed with all of the support.
“We support each other in good and in rough times,” Castle said.
Castle and Gano also visit smaller American Legions in Kentucky and help them create their own Legion Riders.
This year the Legion Riders already have volunteered with several events at the 1st TSC.
Legion Riders help purchase snacks and drinks for soldiers when they’re preparing to deploy and when they return. Gano said, “We talk to soldiers and families and offer support.”
They also send treats and gifts to deployed 1st TSC soldiers. They send candy around Halloween time and other gifts during the winter holiday season. The Legion Riders often will work with schools and have school kids create cards and send them with the gifts.
The Riders provide military honors at funerals for members of community safety forces and for veterans. They also provide escort for the traveling Vietnam Wall throughout the country.
Castle said, “When it comes to helping soldiers and veterans, there is no task too small nor too great.”
“It takes a community to run a unit,” Castle said.
The Riders are part of the 1st TSC community here at Fort Knox, and they are proud to help.
The Legion Riders helped organize and staff an event with food trucks at the barracks in March 2021. They provided meals and games for the soldiers living in the barracks.
They continue supporting movie nights where they provide food and drinks, and they set up a booth and provided children with whirly gig toys during the Month of the Military Child in April.
Just as soldiers are ready to serve 24-hours-a-day, the Legion Riders also are available any time.
“It doesn’t matter what the weather is or what time it is,” Castle said. “We are always here to help.”