A group of approximately 350 motorcycles will be passing through Neosho on Monday, Aug. 19, en route to the national American Legion Convention in Houston, Texas.
The American Legion Riders, who will start their journey in Indianapolis, Ind. on Sunday, Aug. 18, will be riding to draw attention to their biggest project, the Legacy Scholarship.
The scholarship, created in 2002, is intended to aid children who lost a parent in the September 11 attacks, or who have lost a parent in military service.
"The American Legion national commander, in 2001, was actually on Capitol Hill and he was evacuated with everyone else," said American Legion Riders Program Administrator Bill Sloan. "They went out onto the south lawn and looked across and saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon. A few months later, he got together with the finance commission of the American Legion and the education commission of the American Legion and determined that they were going to start a scholarship for the children whose parents died that day at the Pentagon."
Sloan said the scholarship was started in early 2002 and extended to all children with a parent lost in active duty.
The American Legion Riders, a group of bikers made up of legion members, auxiliary members and sons of the legion, adopted the Legacy Scholarship as their key project.
According to their website, the Legacy Scholarship has awarded $291,895 in aid since 2004, though, Sloan noted, many of the children to be helped by the scholarship have not reached college age yet.
"We expect to need about $20 million within 10 years to meet the expected demand," Sloan said. "And the riders have committed to do that until they drop. They're totally committed to it."
Sloan was passing through Neosho on Wednesday, on his fifth trip along the planned route, making arrangements for the big ride.
He said riders had passed through before via car and bike, checking the route and planning stops.
On Wednesday, Sloan was on his final trip along the route before the ride, making final adjustments and alerting local law enforcement of the large group of motorcycles set to travel through town.
"It takes the run about eight minutes to get past a certain point," Sloan said. "It's so long, it stretches about five miles at highway speed. So, when we pass a traffic light, for instance, if the light turns, then we've got a 45-minute obstruction of traffic. So, if the police are there ahead of us and they see us coming and block the lights for us, they can squeeze us right through town."
Sloan said the riders will pass by Granby, Neosho and Seneca as they travel along U.S. Highway 60.
"We're staying on 60, we'll have refueled in Springfield, Mo. and our next stop will be Big Cabin, Okla.," Sloan said.
Page 2 of 2 - Sloan said the American Legion Riders are set to pass through Neosho between 1 and 1:30 p.m. that day, with American flags flying from their bikes.
While the ride itself is not a fundraiser for the scholarship, Sloan said it raises awareness of the scholarship fund.
"The ride is the most visible thing that the riders from all over the country have been doing," Sloan said.
The American Legion accepts donations for the scholarship fund throughout the year. For more information, or to find out how to donate, visit their website at www.legion.org/riders.