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Big bikes & hugs are driving combat veterans to help other vets

The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association loves loud bikes, but does their work quietly.

DRASCO, Ark. — Every month, D.J's Diner becomes a biker bar and a veterans club all at once, except that the leather-clad bikers aren't looking for a fight or booze. It would get in the way of their mission.

"Everybody turns and looks at us," Daniel "D-Bo" King said, the road captain for the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Arkansas chapter 7-8. "We love it. The louder the pipes, the more we turn a lot of heads."

The chapter is based in Cleburne County and is one of eight in Arkansas and dozens across the country. It's an exclusive club for a couple reasons.

"You have to have at least a 500 c.c. motorcycle, and you've got to be a combat veteran," Bill Morton said, who handles communications and social media for the chapter. "And you got to have your paperwork to prove it."

Those two qualifications set this association apart from other veterans groups, even those centered on motorcycles. Big bikes, "bro-hugs" and back-slaps on the distinctive leather vests adorned with patches listing where the member saw actual combat are the not-so-secret signs of what the members get out of joining the group.

"We like to ride motorcycles and we try to help vets. Our motto is vets helping vets," chapter president Bill "Oscar" Bleecher said.  

That's the service side. Then there's the benefits of membership.

"For a combat vet, there is a thrill to run your motorcycle with some guys with some brotherhood," Morton said. "Nobody even has to talk about [their service]. 'Here's what happened when I was in.'"

So the rides bring pleasure, but they also generate the money to help others.

"If we come across a veteran that needs help, we'll do everything we can to help them," Bleecher said. "We did Christmas dinners for six people this past Christmas. Six families who got meals and gift cards."

Now that you mention it, a biker beard looks a lot like Santa's beard. But members keep that spirit going all year, by trading reindeer power for two-wheeled horsepower, with a simple creedo.

"We've got a great bunch of guys and, you know, we like to ride motorcycles," Bleecher said. "We go places do things and have a good time doing it." 

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