MARQUETTE — According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than twenty one million veterans in the United States. A group of veterans from Upper Michigan and parts of Wisconsin are all about giving back to their fellow brothers and sisters.
“We like to help our veterans. It’s veterans helping veterans. Our older veterans kind of paved the way for us. We don’t want them to be forgotten. They’re special in our hearts,” said AJ Bower, chapter secretary for Combat Vets.
The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association is all about giving back to their fellow comrades. Chapter 35–1 gathered at the Little Lake American Legion Post Saturday in preparation of their big day ahead. Many of the combat vets rode their bikes from as far away as Sault Ste. Marie, Menominee, and Wisconsin to visit their fellow vets.
“Our motto is ‘Veterans Helping Veterans.’ If there’s a vet that’s having a hard time, if we hear about it we’ll help him out if we can,” said Joe Kerekes, public relations specialist for Combat Vets. “That’s what so nice when you can get together with friends and just enjoy what you enjoy doing. That’s what it’s all about.”
The group raised a significant amount of money to give to the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans. The CMVA started raising money for the Marquette County Veterans Home just last year.
“This is our main event of the year as a chapter,” said David Lukowski, chapter president of Combat Vets. “We operate as friends, heartfelt friends. Everyone here will give you the shirt off of their back.”
After all of the money was counted up, 34 bikes fired up and headed to Jacobetti to hang out with the veterans for the day. During lunchtime, the Combat Vets presented $5,000 check to the home to be used for the veterans activity fund.
“We’re in a special situation here because with veterans, people think of us all the time and think of us often,” said Ken Arseneau, activity director at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans. “We have groups like this who are just willing to come and say, ‘Look I’ve got money. Do you want it?’ We say yes– a veteran visit is always special.”
For the Combat Vets, the best part about the day was spending time with the veterans and listening to what they had to say.
“When you sit down and talk to the older veterans, we don’t tell them about ourselves. We listen to them,” said Lukowski. “They need it. They probably don’t get a lot of visitors. I get teary eyed when I go in there with them and they start sharing their life experiences. I can speak for every one of our members – they love the veterans. This is my second family, it really is.”