Riding solo across America
'Patriot Express' raises funds for military service organizations
A veteran who has ridden his motorcycle nearly 100,000 miles in the past three years to support veterans' families rolled through Whitehall on Aug. 16 before beginning a cross-country trip to his native California.
Dave Barr, 60, aka the "Patriot Express," has an unusual story but also a commonality with the veterans he meets at VFW and American Legion posts throughout the United States.
On Aug. 16, he and members of American Legion Post 490 united to raise money for Operation Military Embrace, a nonprofit organization that supports all veterans but particularly the families of veterans killed or missing in action.
Barr, a paraplegic with prosthetic legs, has a colorful military record and a vivid memory.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Barr remembers what is was like when he returned home after a three-year tour in southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.
"They didn't want us back here," Barr said. "And I don't want veterans (retuning from the second Gulf War) and their families to feel that way.
"Many of the families can't understand what happens over there, but (the veterans) have to live with it every day," he said. "We are here to help the families of the veterans."
As a U.S. Marine, Barr was a crew chief on a Huey gun ship.
After serving three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Barr's military service extended to three foreign countries.
"I took an oath to serve (in those militaries)," Barr said.
He was a member in the Israeli parachute regiment from 1975 to 1977 and served in the Rhodesian light infantry in 1979 and 1980 and the South African parachute brigade from 1981 to 1983.
"In Israel, we fought against Islamic terrorism ... and fought communism in Rhodesia and South Africa," Barr said.
He lost his legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in South Africa.
About four years ago, he began participating in "Honor Rides" throughout the United States, riding his motorcycle for military support organizations.
Unlike some Honor Ride events that include groups of riders, Barr is a one-man show.
Calling himself the "Patriot Express," Barr makes his cross-county trips alone.
"I can cover a lot more miles," Barr said.
This is the second year Barr has met with the American Legion Rides Post 490 to raise funds for Operation Military Embrace. A member of the Whitehall post had learned Barr was in Ohio for another event and arranged for him to visit the Whitehall post for the first time last year.
Last year's dinner at the Whitehall post raised about $2,000.
Barr, Post 490 members and others met at the American Motorcycle Association's Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington before riding the short distance to American Legion Post 490 on South Hamilton Road in Whitehall for the benefit dinner.
Barr rides a Buell today. One of Barr's other motorcycles is on display at the AMA museum, and he is a member of the museum's Hall of Fame for his support of veterans and riding more than 100,000 miles in the United States, as well as other parts of the world.
The benefit dinner at the Legion included a raffle. Among the items raffled was a signed U.S. flag that had flown above a U.S. base in Afghanistan.
"The folks in Whitehall are a giving bunch," said Barr, who departed the Whitehall post on the evening of Aug. 16 en route to a VFW post in Byesville, in eastern Ohio.
On Aug. 18, Barr was scheduled as the guest speaker at the "Indy Mile," a motorcycle race at the Indiana State Fair.
Barr also planned a stop in Missouri for a charity event before biking to his home in Bodfish, Calif., a village of about 2,000 people about 35 miles northeast of Bakersfield.
Manley Norris, commander of the Sons of the American Legion of Post 490, thanked Barr for helping the Whitehall post continue its effort to support veterans.
"It's amazing to see (Barr) ride ... and we had a great event at our post," Norris said.