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Official meetings of the American Legion normally include a reference to American servicemen considered prisoners of war or missing in action, as noted in resolution 288.

And they should, says Atlantic Beach, Fla., Post 316 commander Denny Luke. But the American Legion Rider also believes the POW / MIA issue should be shared as often as possible outside of the American Legion community.

That’s why Luke helped organize the first Florida American Legion Riders POW / MIA Remembrance Ride on September 18, a day after National POW / MIA Appreciation Day. About 160 motorcycles and over 200 participants took part in the ride.

Referencing the table and the POW / MIA flag “is a bit like preaching to the choir,” Luke said. “But much of the general public doesn’t even know that there is a National Prisoner of War / MIA Appreciation Day. So I said ‘let’s take it to the streets and just try to make it known.’ So that’s what we did.

Two years ago, at a meeting of LRA leaders, there was talk of going to Andersonville, the former site of Camp Sumter military prison – one of the largest Confederate military prisons during civil war – to celebrate Prisoner of War / MIA Appreciation Day. At that time, Luke pointed out that a POW / MIA memorial was being built at the former Cecil Field Air Force Base in Jacksonville, so the decision was made to go there instead.

“I stood up and said ‘why do we want to get out of state when we can stay in state and promote the race for the state of Florida,'” said Luke, who was previously president. of the Florida District 5 ALR. “The response has been overwhelming. Everyone there said “absolutely”.

The pandemic has postponed the journey until 2021; planning began about nine months ago and included promoting the race through social media, traditional media and by reaching out to departmental districts of the state; and working with local law enforcement and National POW / MIA Memorial & Museum staff.

The costs were covered by the Florida Department’s ALR, but ALR Department Chairman Jim Wineland gave Luke credit for making the ride the success it has been. “(Luke) gets 99% of the credit,” he said. “It was he who came out and beat all the bushes. It was he who jumped over political barriers to put everything in place.

The ride may have coincided with Jacksonville’s POW / MIA ceremony and started at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Wall, crossing the city’s seven bridges and crossing the St. Johns River before ending at the National POW / MIA Memorial near the chapel high speed. Proceed to the old Cecil Field.

Wineland said the goal of the race was to keep the POW / MIA issue on the nation’s mind. “We don’t want him to get lost. We don’t want to be forgotten, ”he said. “The only way to keep it going is to keep it in front of the people. We thought this was the best way to do it.

“There are a lot of people who have no connection with one of their relatives. We simply can never forget what it all means.

Hundreds of photos and videos of the ride were shared on social media. Click here to watch a video of the ride and here to see more photos.

“We had a wonderful event. Everyone had a great time, ”said Luke. “Next year, we hope to make it better known and double our attendance. We want to make it a premier event in the Southeastern United States. “