South Side VFW Post 6675 Hosts Weekly Bike Nights
VFW Motorcycle Riders Group District 29 increases veterans awareness
July 26, 2022
Although their engines roar and each member proudly wears a patch that signifies solidarity, they are not a motorcycle club. In fact, their charter endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars expressly forbids that they be identified as a motorcycle club. Wearing patches or logos characterizing their group as one would violate the rules.
What they identify as are members of the VFW Motorcycle Riders Group District 29. They are veterans and supporters of those who've served in the military. That comradery is shared first. The motorcycles and the thrill of riding together provides a social atmosphere, but the primary purpose of the VFW Riders Group is to assist the oldest and largest group of combat veterans founded in the United States.
According to Marine veteran Wally Paciorkowski, chapter president, each time his members ride their motorcycles, they're building on a legacy.
"We're all for veterans," said Paciorkowski. "We're proud of our bikes, but prouder still to be part of the VFW."
Formed in Pittsburgh by troops who deployed to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and China over a century ago, the VFW of the United States has continued its mission of helping veterans and their families for generations. Allegheny County has approximately three dozen VFW posts that make up VFW District 29. And since its charter was approved this past October, VFW Motorcycle Riders Group District 29 has welcomed 17 new members with military service in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.
"It's not lost on us that we're carrying on a tradition here," said Paciorkowski, who served on an anti-tank missile crew in Operation Iraqi Freedom. "Many of us have family members and ancestors that served in Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, World War II, and even earlier. A history of veterans relying on and helping each other through the VFW is the reason why we're riding."
Jessica King, VFW District 29 commander, said the motorcycle riders group is good idea at the right time.
"I've been impressed with how fast this has taken off," said King, also a Marine and Iraq War veteran. "It is exciting to see how quick it has grown from being the first group chartered in the VFW Department of Pennsylvania last year. It's great to witness the positive impact it is having in our VFW and our communities throughout VFW District 29."
Veterans of Foreign Wars riders groups are chartered to help increase the visibility of the VFW and its programs. By funding and maintaining a world-wide network of service officers and posts, the VFW aids veterans and their families with access to employment, pensions and healthcare benefits. Paciorkowski's riders assist with fundraising, and provide a vital outreach that lets veterans know that the VFW is there – ready to help.
A recent fundraising event organized by the VFW Motorcycle Riders Group District 29 helped purchase, put together and distribute duffel bags packed for homeless veterans. Each duffel bag costs $400 to $500 to assemble, and contained items like warm clothes, a tarp, a parka, long johns, boots, hygiene articles and a flashlight.
The group also donated to families of veterans who died or were injured while riding motorcycles. Future fundraisers include helping Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors Inc.
Relying on each other just as they did in combat, said Paciorkowski, is the attraction of the motorcycle riders.
"Membership allows me to reach more veterans than I normally would," the Marine said. "There are tons of veterans who feel that they don't have a home or tribe after they've separated from the military. Our riders group allows veterans with similar interests to enjoy their hobby together."
Although VFW Motorcycle Riders Group District 29 is chartered and supported by the VFW, involvement is not restricted exclusively to combat veterans. Membership is open to those who are auxiliary or social members in good standing at any VFW post. As motorcycle safety is strongly encouraged by the group, a valid license, registration and insurance is needed. Motorcycle size is limited to 500cc or above.
"We're all about bikes and helping veterans," said Paciorkowski, who is also commander of South Side VFW James P. Cryster III Memorial Post 6675. "The more we have, the more we can help."
The motorcycle riders group is headquartered at VFW Post 6675 on Sidney Street, and meets on the third Wednesday of each month. Depending on the riding schedule and hall availability, the meeting site changes. They also host bike nights every Monday during good weather from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Those interested in finding out more about the group can call 412-607-3923.
(Michael P. Mauer is the Public Affairs Officer for VFW District 29. He served as an Army photojournalist during Operation Desert Storm, and was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf for his actions during the war.)