Every August for the past 19 years, usually on a steamy Saturday morning, bikers gather around the USS Bancroft Memorial outside the Franklin Gate at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. The bikers are all active duty service members, retirees, or veterans and they are all members of the Armed Forces Motorcycle Club, Kingsland Chapter.
“Next year will be the 20th anniversary of our club’s support of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society,” said Chapter President, Pat Wilson. “The reason we support the Society is because we’ve all walked in the shoes of that young Sailor or Marine before, living paycheck to paycheck and suddenly had an unfortunate hardship hit. With the Society, that Sailor or Marine always has someone in their corner.”
Meeting at the USS Bancroft Memorial is just the start of a day-long fundraising event sponsored by the motorcycle club. This past August, members, friends, and guests participated in a poker run. Between the memorial and the clubhouse are three stops—each at a local business that supports veterans’ causes. At each stop, bikers received a playing card, and the biker with the best hand at the end of the ride—and the one with the worst hand—won a cash prize. “But, almost always, the winners turn around and donate their prize money to the Society,” Wilson said. The finish line party includes food, live music, door prizes, and raffles. “We do whatever we can to raise that extra dollar for Sailors and Marines.”
The final stop of the ride is the Armed Forces Motorcycle Clubhouse. “We were invited to the clubhouse to receive the donation check,” recalled NMCRS Kings Bay Director, Megan O’Connell. “These guys are amazing patriots and full of character. They come from all branches of the military. We really enjoyed our time with them.” O’Connell recalled that a 30-year NMCRS volunteer jumped on with one of the veteran bikers at the first stop, but decided she’d had enough motorcycle riding by the time they arrived at the second stop.
Wilson said he joined the club because of the camaraderie – which he missed since retiring after serving 24 years in the Navy. He served as a missile technician onboard submarines and was stationed at Submarine Base Kings Bay for 18 of those years. Wilson retired as a master chief and said he enjoyed every minute of his military service. “After I retired, I missed the brotherhood I had while serving on submarines, but I found that same feeling in the Armed Forces Motorcycle Club.” The club was established in 1987 in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and has chapters across the United States. Club Chapters typically sponsor events to benefit military-related causes and community organizations.
“We’re very grateful for the $1,000 donation to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society by the Armed Forces Motorcycle Club Kingsland Chapter,” O’Connell said. “This club is making a positive impact on our community and we’re proud to partner with them to make the 20th anniversary event next year even bigger.”
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso