Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers Use Love for Motorcycles to Help Fellow Veterans
SPRINGFIELD, IL (12/12/2011)(readMedia)-- For years motorcycle groups have ruled the road. Black leather, dark shades, tattoos, and blaring exhausts have left an impression on passersbys and it has not always been a favorable one. Some motorcycle groups have become known for danger and lawlessness. The Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club is different and challenges the negative stereotypes that have been associated with motorcycle groups.
"We don't want to give off the impression that we are some outlaw motorcycle club or anything like that," said Sgt. 1st Class David G. Keefer of Charleston, an Illinois Army National Guard recruiter for the Sullivan/Charleston area and president of the Springfield chapter of the Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club. "We are veterans. We ride respectable and act respectable in public."
The Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club is an organization made up of combat veterans supporting veterans. The three Illinois chapters located in Chicago, Springfield and Galesburg is a part of a national organization with its headquarters based in Florida.
"It's more about helping your local community and local veterans than it is just being motorcycle riders," said Chief Warrant Officer (2) Christopher M. Werth of Springfield, with the 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago and vice president of the Springfield chapter.
Keefer and Werth went through a natural progression in becoming a part of the Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club. They both enjoyed riding motorcycles, appreciated the camaraderie found with brothers in arms, and most importantly, thought it was important to help other veterans in need.
"It's almost a fraternity where you get to be around guys with the same likes and interests that you have," said Keefer. "These warriors have done a lot of the same things that you have. It's really special to be able to share the road with guys like that and to share your experience. It's a good outlet and it does become a brotherhood."
There is a natural bond found within the organization because each man knows the importance of defending freedom and have proven their convictions while in combat.
"When you meet a World War II or Vietnam veteran, you know that they have seen a lot when they were putting their life on the line," said Werth. "You can relate to them because even though we weren't a part of the same wars, there is a bond since we have all served in combat."
While the relationships created an important aspect to the Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club, the veterans supported by their efforts are the most important part and the reason they ride. The funds they raised have gone to numerous charities including creating memorial college scholarships, providing food for struggling veterans and supporting injured veterans.
The group has been involved with numerous events recently including Toys for Tots and gathering a truck load of hygiene and personal items for the Danville Veterans Affairs Hospital. They started the Sgt. Gerrick Smith college fund and have raised over one thousand dollars in honor of Smith, an Illinois Army National Guard Soldier from Sullivan killed in Afghanistan in July 2009.
"We have also assisted in two benefits for two of our own members hurt in accidents and we are adding three more Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran relief rides next year," Keefer said. "We are also assisting as escorts for returning units and fallen brothers and sisters in arms."
The club is also planning to help with honor flights to Washington D.C.
"You have to want to give to the ones that are less fortunate," said Werth. "You have to want to give back to your local community and make your living area and your city better. You have to have it in your own heart to determine if this is something you want to do."
There are 46 members between the three chapters in Illinois and they are always looking to increase their membership and, as a result, increase their impact.
"My goal is that we continue to grow and the public comes to see us for what we really are; veterans riding for veterans," said Keefer.
For more information on the Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club visit www.warriorbrotherhood.com.
Photo: Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class David Keefer/ Servicemembers from all branches who served during different wars are members of the Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club. Illinois Army National Guard members pictured include (far left second row) Spc. Dalton Sargent of Sullivan, (right of the table) Sgt. 1st Class David Keefer of Charleston, Sgt. Robert Czerniak of Schaumburg and Chief Warrant Officer (2) Christopher Werth of Springfield (back row) Sgt. 1st Class Randy Clapham of Mattoon. The servicemembers share a love for motorcycles and embrace helping fellow veterans.
Story by Sgt. Jesse Houk, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment