Nation of Patriots continues tour to raise funds for disabled veterans

By LORENZO J. REYNA | | Published: June 27, 2019

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — Camaraderie was on display at the Santa Maria Harley-Davidson on Wednesday when a group of motorcycle riders gathered for a common cause: raising funds to support disabled veterans.

Members of the nonprofit Nation of Patriots representing Santa Cruz and Santa Maria met at the Santa Maria dealership located off Preisker Lane as part of the group's 10th annual Patriot Tour.

The goal of the tour: Ride 14,500 miles in 110 days across 48 states, while carrying an American flag, on a fundraising mission for veterans.

“It’s a donation run,” said Matt Koch from Santa Cruz who rode into the Santa Maria dealership Wednesday.“All of that goes to veterans who have sustained injuries in service and are home having trouble making ends meet. This helps them out — maybe with Christmas and groceries.”

Through the organization’s website, Nation of Patriots raises money for disabled veterans and their families, then distributes 100% of it directly to the veterans and families selected through the Veterans Administration Hospital network.

The all-volunteer organization has helped 378 veterans, logged 166,000 miles and raised $860,735 in its 10-year existence.

The 2019 tour began May 18 in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Each leg of the tour is around a three-hour ride.

At the end of each leg, the flag is ceremoniously handed off to the next group of Nation of Patriots escorts.

Redding was the first California city where the flag was exchanged, and six days later, four members of the Santa Maria Nation of Patriots chapter received it.

Underneath a warm 71-degree sun, Koch was among the group of six riders who roared down Highway 101 into Santa Maria with other members of the Santa Cruz chapter.

Koch and the Santa Cruz group received the flag Monday from San Francisco riders they met in Salinas.

From there, they took the two-plus-hour trek to Santa Maria, where they handed off the flag at the Harley-Davidson dealership.

Upon arrival Wednesday afternoon, riders exchanged pleasantries and discussed their experiences riding.

"We've all done lots of big group rides, but carrying the Patriot Tour feels different," Koch said. "Other people (on the road) don't know what we're carrying or don't know what these six bikes are doing. But it feels different to us."

At each city, members sign a banner before turning the flag over, and the four Santa Maria riders signed the banner Koch delivered Wednesday.

A flag prayer then was said, along with the bearer's pledge, recited by Santa Cruz chapter member Hy "Crash" Libby from Prunedale.

Libby extended the flag with his right hand to Santa Maria member Steve Moeller, who placed his right hand on the cloth.

“Rider, I am a flag bearer,” Libby said to Moeller. "I am one of few who have proudly carried this flag. My mission is complete, and I stand relieved. As the next in line, it’s with great honor that I present to you the American flag."

Moeller proudly accepted the flag from Libby before he and the Santa Cruz chapter traveled back home.

“It’s that moment that you realize what you represent, all that has happened and that we’re a free nation and still are,” said Moeller, whose son served in the U.S. Army. "And we want to hang on to the feeling of the patriot. We must keep that protection of the country to remain free, and that’s why we do this.

“It’s a sense of pride. I’m proud to be an American and what we actually stand for.”

Moeller, 64, has been with Nation of Patriots for all 10 years. He and three other riders now will travel to Ventura County to meet the Simi Valley chapter Friday.

The tour is expected to end Sept. 7, when riders return the flag to Beaver Dam.

©2019 Lompoc Record, Calif.

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