What is a combat veteran? Well, it depends on who you ask. The definition can range on one end of the spectrum from a service member who engages in direct, individual physical contact with the enemy to the other end of the spectrum of a service member who deploys to provide support to combatant units. The definition, as it relates to membership criteria for the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA), is a veteran of a foreign war or combat zone, as verified through award of specific service medals/ribbons for actions in combat and/or service in DoD designated combat zones. My service in Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom meet the criteria, and I have been a member of the CVMA since 2013.
Though I have not been much of an active participant since returning to Fort Bragg in 2016, my social life pretty much revolved around my CVMA chapters when I was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, TX and Fort Leavenworth, KS. Veterans assistance running the gambit of home repairs, serving meals, bike escorts for funerals and homecomings, meetings, celebrations of life and career milestones, and just being there – we truly lived the CVMA motto of “Vets Helping Vets” and became family in the process.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I am not a fan of motorcycle rallies. I love riding, but I don’t enjoy doing it with thousands of others in a small geographic area. Oh, and I don’t like big cities! So, the fact that I I worked an extremely large motorcycle meeting, in a big city that wasn’t exactly on my cross country route, into my itinerary just to catch up with folks I haven’t seen in 5-7 years, is a testament to how strong the CVMA brother/sisterhood is!
Each year, CVMA holds its national meeting in a different city, and this year it was in Louisville, KY. Louisville had a lot of sightseeing to offer, and a lot of folks participated in bourbon tours and riverboat cruises, but I spent most of my time playing tourist with Chief, Baby Cakes, Double D, Big Daddy, and Yellow Rose. We did the Kentucky Downs tour and Kentucky Derby museum, Louisville Slugger bat factory tour and museum, lots of eating, and of course, a bunch of sitting around reliving the good times and talking through some hard ones.
As much fun as all the excursions were, the main reason for being in town was the organization’s national meeting, so on the last day, we got down to business. Soooooo many veteran bikers! Although we didn’t have any WWII veterans as in previous years, we did have a Korean veteran and several Vietnam Veterans, including Chief. Unfortunately, the decision to get a photo of the female members wasn’t made until after the meeting was over and people were already leaving, so we only got a smattering of women Warriors in the group photo. Although the women make up a small percentage of the membership, we showed up and represented!
Louisville proved to be a great respite from travel, but as the activities drew to a close, I was happy to join the thousands of bikers who packed up and hit the road. There wasn’t a single route radiating from Louisville on Sunday that didn’t have a rider or vehicle with a CVMA logo on it.
Where to go from here?