Legion Riders: Please ask us to ride in funerals
By RANDY GONZALES
The American Legion Riders of Hays Post No. 173 want to be there for veterans' families. But they have to be asked by a family before they can participate in a funeral.
"The thing we're trying to get accomplished is things we do for veterans at funerals," said Lambert Staab, director of American Legion Riders since it was established at the local post six years ago.
"Our bylaws state we can't approach a family to ask them to do something for a veteran's funeral," Staab said. "The funeral directors are supposed to ask the families when they come in, when they know they are a veteran, if they want the Legion Riders to do something for them."
Typically, the Riders will form in the procession to the cemetery, with motorcycles with large American flags in front, cycles with smaller flags in the middle, and those without flags in the rear.
"We used to do numerous funerals; we like to do things for veterans," Staab said. "We'll do as much or as little as any family wants us to do."
The Riders from Hays Post No. 173 have participated in funerals in Hays and from around the area. There are other Riders at other American Legion posts throughout the state, too.
"We just want the word out that we want to do something for our veterans," said Staab, who served in the Army from 1966 to 1968. "There have been numerous veterans that have passed away that nobody knew we were doing this, for sure. They just assumed, I guess.
"They knew that we are doing it; they just assumed we were going to be there."
Only if they are asked, which is frustrating, said Gorden Burgardt, co-director for the local Riders program for a year now.
"You see all the veterans that are passing," he said. "We're not getting called."
Staab and Burgardt consider it an honor to be part of the Rider program.
"You get a very good feeling, knowing that you helped honor a man or woman that gave their all for the country," said Burgardt, whose father, Norman, served in the Navy during World War II.
"It makes us feel really good to be there," Staab said. "If I passed away, I would want somebody to be there for me."
To request the services of the American Legion Riders from Hays Post No. 173, call Staab at (785) 623-0921 or Burgardt at (785) 259-2128.