American Legion Riders Host Appreciation Event for Law Enforcement
DALTON, Mass. — The American Legion Riders of Post 155 on Monday morning recognized the many police departments that ensure the safety of its two annual motorcycle rides.
The tradition started a few years ago, said Michael Lefebvre, Massachusetts founding president, as a way to recognize officers' help with traffic control, and to show an appreciation of their daily efforts to protect and serve.
"I think we should appreciate law enforcement, they do nothing but good for us," he said on Monday morning as the Riders prepared to present plaques and letters during the National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day breakfast at the post home.
"They do traffic control for us — knock on wood — we've had this 16 years in the Berkshires and we haven't had an accident yet. There's a lot of motorcycle runs for charities and benefits and unfortunately, there's a lot of accidents ... 100 percent, they've backed us and been there and I feel they're unappreciated."
State police, Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler and representatives from departments in South Berkshire and the hill towns attended the buffet breakfast.
"It's a great group, that's why I came up here today," said Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh.
The organization raises money for a number of veterans' causes, participates in parades and escorts the remains of veterans to funerals. A ride on Memorial Day for members raises scholarship money for students pursuing careers in law enforcement and the much larger Freedom Ride in August raises money for veterans. The group changes up the routes each year, passing through different towns.
Walsh said the group doesn't "put a lot on us, they're all squared away" in terms of coordination. But it's rare, he said, for someone to go out of their way to show the force this kind of recognition. "Most come by and say 'thank you' and that's OK," he said. "This, it's a nice little breakfast today and I appreciate it."
The departments were presented with plaques that thanked them "for their unwavering continuous service and support to all within the community." State Police Maj. Barry J. O'Brien, commanding officer of Troop B, was given a certificate of appreciation for contributing to the "advancement of the American Legion programs and activities dedicated to God and Country."
Riders' road captain Neil Raymond noted that the year 2016 had been particularly deadly for those in law enforcement. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 64 officers were shot and killed, the most in the past five years.
"While you may work and reside in a relatively rural area it doesn't mean that you won't at some point in time in your own careers have these similar experiences or will have them," he said.
"You're all very special people. You get up at all hours of the day and night to protect and serve the citizens of this state," said Lefebvre. "You put on a uniform that sometimes makes you a target. You go out to serve and protect ... you have our utmost respect."
On a lighter note, Raymond acknowledged, "there's nothing more disconcerting than a large group of loud motorcyclists rolling through a community ... while you don't think it's much from the standpoint of our not having any kind of an impact, it makes this flow so much easier. ... without your assistance it wouldn't be as beneficial and easy as it has been so far."
Departments sending representatives this year were Hinsdale, Otis, Lee, West Stockbridge, Great Barrington; and from the Lee and Cheshire barracks of Troop B; and Bowler representing the sheriff's department. Departments that were unable to send representatives were Becket, Cummington, Stockbridge, Dalton and Windsor.
Bowler said his department supports the organization whenever it has an event, including with its own motorcycle unit.
"This organization is great with the fundraisers they do in support of veterans," he said. "It's an organization that's very, very dedicated to a wonderful cause supporting our veterans and those killed in action. ...
"It's a great tribute to law enforcement for what we do to support this organization. This is just a great sign of community collaboration."
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