Motorcycle club supports veterans emotionally and financially
The men of In Country Vietnam Motorcycle Club know what it’s like to accelerate from zero to sixty miles per hour in a matter of seconds. They also know what it’s like to have battled in the Vietnam War, survived, and come back to a country that spurned them.
“When we came home from Vietnam, we were ostracized,” says Larry Raper, who remembers getting spat on when he returned from combat.
“We don’t ever want to see anyone treated the way we were treated,” Gerry Lowrey explains. “We were not welcomed over; we were not welcomed home. We were treated like fourth-class citizens.”
Though these memories are painful for both men, the injustice has spurred them to take care of their fellow veterans by honoring them with respect and financial support.
“When we see a vet come home, we always say, ‘Welcome home,’” says Larry, Texas president of the In Country Vietnam Motorcycle Club, an elite motorcycle club limited to combat veterans who served in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guardduring the Vietnam War.
In 2010, the club assumed responsibility for the Bikers for Vets benefit, previously sponsored by independent riders who raised money on behalf of fellow veterans. “The gentleman who led it was unable to coordinate it anymore, so we took it over as one of our fundraising functions,” says Larry.
After serving in combat, it’s not uncommon for veterans to return home with physical and mental injuries, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and paranoia. “Our goal is to make sure that veterans and their families don’t fall through the cracks,” Gerry says.
Larry adds, “We want them to know that they have someone who’s watching their back. And we help all of them. Doesn’t matter if they’re Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, World War II.”
As an IRS 501(c)(19) nonprofit motorcycle club, they cannot sell items for profit, but they can receive donations. Over the years, they’ve hosted live bands, custom bike shows, bike washes, fun runs, and drawings to raise money. Not everyone who attends the functions can afford to donate to the cause, but as long as no one goes hungry, that’s okay with the men of In Country Vietnam Motorcycle Club.
“We’ve had it both ways,” Gerry reports. “People have donated fifty dollars for a hotdog, and other people with young families—it’s a meal for them.”
As a culmination of their fundraising efforts, the Texas chapters of In Country Vietnam Motorcycle Club band together to give an annual donation of $5,000 to fund veterans’ causes and veterans’ organizations. This year, the money was presented to Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, to assist fellow veterans at the William R. Courtney Veterans Home in Temple with living expenses, toiletries, and sundries.
“Our club’s motto is “Vets Helping Vets,’” Gerry says. “We’re just trying to get the message across to everybody that ‘Here’s what we’re doing and here’s what it’s for.’”
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