The Brainerd Chapter of the American Legion Riders, sponsored by American Legion Post 255 of Brainerd, Minn., was chartered in October 2013. Since that time, we have grown and become known in the community and are often asked to participate in patriotic events in the Brainerd Lakes area. About two years ago at a chapter meeting, the topic of memorials came up with Benghazi as a central point. We decided that it was wrong that these four veterans who sacrificed everything while defending American interests seemed to be forgotten. We decided to rectify that oversight and sought buy-in from state and national legislators and military leaders in the state. Everywhere we turned, the response was that it was too political a topic and they could not or would not pursue the issue. Being the hard-headed bikers that we are, the chapter decided that we would move forward on our own, alone if necessary, as to our minds this was not a political event but honoring fallen veterans. We raised the funds and worked with the leadership at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery at Little Falls to design a memorial bench honoring the heroes of Benghazi: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Air Force veteran Sean Smith, retired Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods and retired Navy SEAL Glen Doherty.
On Sept. 16, 2018, two years of discussions and hard work came to fruition as the memorial bench was dedicated. We were pleased to have Past Department Commanders Mike Schaffer and Peggy Moon, Past 6th District Commanders Carl Moon and Dewayne Collins, Past Department Auxiliary President Donna Arends, Detachment SAL Commander Shawn Davis, 6th District Commander Richard Cross Sr. and 6th District Auxiliary President Sharon Thiemecke as our guests for the dedication. Greetings were presented by the Morrison County sheriff and the Little Falls mayor. Our guest speakers for the occasion were Mary Johnson, Minnesota state president of Gold Star Families, and Bill Thomas, CEO and founder of 9-11 Honor and Serve, one of the designers of the Benghazi memorial in Montana at the Flat Head Resort.