American Legion Riders helping veterans

On Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, a group of 18 American Legion Riders from Post 626 in Birdsboro descended upon the home of Pete Alexander to construct an access ramp. Pete is a disabled veteran who served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army during Desert Storm. Pete had been on a waiting list with VA for almost 2 years.

Pete’s neighbor, Lisa Twadell, had been assisting him whenever she could. He used to only have 5 standard steps to get in and out of his Fleetwood home. Being in cuff crutches made that extremely difficult, resulting in a number of falls. Lisa wanted to do something so she reached out to her friend, Betty Kennedy, who is involved with the American Legion Riders. Betty brought it to the Riders road captain, Chris Swenda. After drawing up plans and a materials list, the project was discussed at a regular monthly meeting. It was unanimously approved and subsequently scheduled as soon as possible.

In the weeks leading up to the project, word was spreading throughout Pennsylvania's Region 6 of what was being planned via a weekly email chain. Riders from other American Legion posts were reaching out and offering assistance. Riders from Post 184 were able to make it out to help with the build. Riders from Post 234 came out during construction to make a generous donation. The Post 626 Home Association was instrumental in the fundraising efforts. It truly was a group effort.

The group started out at 8 am and was finished up by 2 pm. The ramp was constructed in adherence to ADA standards. Pete had almost stopped going out of his home due to the difficulty of getting in and out. He relied on neighbors, friends and family to assist him. Like most veterans, he didn't want to ask for help. Pete was so grateful that other veterans and their families cared for him enough to come and help him without even knowing him. He said, "It was a godsend."

Swenda said, "This is what we are here for. The American Legion was formed 102 years ago with the primary mission of providing assistance to veterans returning from World War I. That mission has not changed. In fact, it has expanded to include the family of veterans. In 2021, it is more important than ever as government-provided veteran assistance is strained and stretched thin and veteran suicide rates continue to average 22 per day. As American Legion Riders, we are an entity within the Legion and support this primary mission wholeheartedly."

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