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story.lead_photo.caption Members of the New Boston, Texas, chapter of Legion Riders and Pinups for Vets pose for pictures. This one tight-knit group of people who were all proud to be a part of the charitable event for the veterans—after all, most of them are veterans themselves. Photo by Andie Martin / Texarkana Gazette.

The Legion Riders motorcycle club of New Boston recently partnered with the Pinups For Vets organization to raise money for veterans hospitalized in Shreveport, La.

The Overton Brooks VA Medical Center is this year's recipient of the fundraising endeavor.

"The first event we did was for the (Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center) Bonham hospital last year," Bill Webb, president of the New Boston American Legion's bikers club, said. "And we made them $1,600.

Gallery: Motorcycle club, Pinups for Vets team up to raise money "And since we're in such a unique location, the Ark-La-Tex, next time it's for the Little Rock VA hospital. And then we're just going to pinwheel. Since we're in this cool little spot of having three states, we are just gonna run 'em and gun 'em like that," he said.

Next year's event will benefit the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock. And there is talk among club members to add the Watkins-Logan Veterans Home in Tyler to the mix.

"We're going to mix them all in and then just start again, keep going around," Webb said.

Pinups For Vets began in 2006 when founder Gina Elise wanted to create something that would help uplift the morale of hospitalized veterans.

"We had a huge influx of veterans coming back to the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan," she said during a televised interview. "There was a lot of stories about these hospitals that were really struggling to take care of this huge population of new veterans in addition to the aging World War II veterans.

"I decided to create a fundraising pinup calendar. Back during WWII, they used to paint these beautiful women on the sides of the planes. They called it nose art. And it kind of boosted the morale of the air crew. They felt like a beautiful woman was watching over them on their missions."

Taking the lead with the 1940s pinup girl theme, Elise and some of the models would also visit as many veterans as they can.

They arrive in full pinup girl fashion, dressed as though they traveled through time. However, no swimsuits or inappropriate attire for these stylish ladies.

"The pinup girls are very tasteful, classy, girl-next-door. It's sort of that mix of sexy and sweet that makes it so special."

And to see the veterans' faces light up as girls arrive for a visit is truly heartfelt.

"A lot of them start to cry because it just means so much to them to have someone stop by and say thank you. A lot of them didn't get that."

The Pinups For Vets 2017 calendar is now on sale and can be ordered from their website

The biker's club is an officially sanctioned organization of the American Legion.

The National Executive Committee officially adopted the American Legion Riders as a national program in May 2011.

"We're the largest Legion Riders chapter in the state of Texas," club member Tony Walls said. "And in our little town of New Boston."

Their membership has been steadily growing.

"Right now, we're growing like a weed on Sunday," Webb said. "When I took over three years ago, we had 20 total members. And now, we've got 72 members."

Charitable events such as this for the veteran's hospital helps to attract new memebers.

Alisha Barrington is the Texas representative for Pinups For Vets and she and Webb go a long way back.

"We served together in Iraq. I worked for Red River Army Depot and we deployed together," Webb said.

"She's been back and forth with the lady on the West Coast where it all started. They wear the old bomber outfits that were on the nose guards of the bombers back in the 1940s.

"Alisha got with me because we'd already done a couple of events together for Randy Sams and Toys For Tots. We started expanding as well as doing the events." 

The Saturday chosen for the charity function was filled with activities for the riders and their friends and families.

"We had a car show, a truck show, a bike show and an auction of donated items," Don Evans, post commander and first vice president of the riders club, said.

Everyone in the club has a pen name they are known by. Webb is "Wild Bill," Walls is "Taz," Evans is "Top,"and the clubs best brisket cook is nicknamed, not surprisingly, "Brisket."

"We all have names, everyone has a name tag sewn on their vests," Walls said.

They offered bike games for the riders—different agility games where the riders have to use their bikes to win a particular tournament. Games like the keg-rolling contest called the slow roll, where they can only use their front tire to roll a keg onto a trailer.

They also had a poker run for everyone. Several bikers congregated outside of the Legion before taking off on a 162-mile-long scavenger hunt of sorts.

Making about five or six stops along the route, the bikers would then draw a card from a deck and make note of their card. Upon their return to the Legion, it would then be determined who had the winning poker hand.

Brisket, the camp cook, is a member of the Legion Riders and also the Soldiers For Christ.

"He's a dual member," Evans said. "A lot of us that ride here go to the First Baptist Church of New Boston. So we're a big community, a big family.

"A lot of these guys are riders that we ride with across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas. We ride with Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky.

"In the beginning of 2016, the Legion Riders was the fastest growing motorcycle association in the United States. We're up to four million nationwide now."

Being involved in many charitable events disproves the reputation the Legion has for just being a bar. And the reputation bikers clubs often have as well.

"We don't want the image of a bar," Walls said. "We're a community service organization. And we're not just bikers either."

"All the people in the Legion are veterans. About 90 percent of the riders are veterans or descendants of veterans, as sons and daughters."

The close relationship is noticeable. Hugs, smiles and how-ya-doings could be heard throughout the day as more members of both the legion and the Legion riders arrived for the festivities.

And they were all there for a special reason.

"All the money and funds we collect goes directly to the hospitals to buy wheelchairs, beds, whatever they need at that particular place," Evans said.

"That's what this is all about."

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