A long salute to veterans

A long salute to veterans

Veteran Headstones

Adam Sandoval and his Chihuahua, Scooter, have been on the road on his 1996 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Standard since November 2014, on a quest to visit every Harley dealer in the lower 48 states to raise money for the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.

The duo has traveled 61,000 miles and visited 515 dealerships during the past 17 months. They have just 181 left to visit. When they arrive at the dealership in Marion on Saturday, they will have visited all 28 Harley shops in Illinois.

When Sandoval started out on the road, there were just the two of them together on the journey, roughing it.

“We slept next to the bike, behind gas stations, in fields, wherever we could lay down our heads,” Sandoval said.

Recently, they have added a bus, bus driver and photographer, thanks to the generosity of the Six Bends Harley dealership in his home town of Fort Myers, Fla.

Sandoval was working with a company that developed mixed martial arts events for the Olympics when he decided to do something to honor military veterans.

“I believe that if you haven’t served in the military to serve those who did,” said Sandoval, during a stop at Coziahr Harley-Davidson in Forsyth. “All my thought processes before this were to give up my life to go on the road.”

His worst adversary has been the weather.

“I was riding in a snow blizzard last week, right here in Illinois,” he said.

It has been a grand adventure altogether, but Sandoval almost lost his best friend while they camped one night on a mountaintop in California’s Sierra Range. Scooter was tucked into his jacket when a pack of coyotes showed up, hoping to snack on the 5-pound canine.

“I had to fight them off with a stick,” said Sandoval, a sturdy man with a deep background in the martial arts.

The best part of traveling throughout the states is meeting so many Americans, he said.

 “Spending time with these veterans, you can learn a lot,” Sandoval said, during a break from talking with numerous veterans and service members in the showroom.

His bike is festooned with stickers from dealerships throughout the nation, including Alexandria, Va.; Barre, Vt. and Cotati, Calif.

Scooter has his own cozy little compartment behind the driver’s saddle, complete with his own windshield.

“He wouldn’t wear the goggles, so we had to do something,” Sandoval said.

A steady stream of veterans and motorcycle riders appeared at the Coziahr shop Wednesday to meet Sandoval, donate to the scholarship fund and purchase a lunch for the cause.

The American Legion Legacy Scholarship provides financial support for military children attending college, especially for those who have lost a parent in a war since Sept. 11, 2001.

David Parker, who served three tours in Iraq during his 20 years in the Army, said it is great that there are people like Sandoval who are willing to help out with veteran causes, such as the American Legion scholarship program.

Parker, former commander of American Legion Post 105 in Decatur, said the local post also provides scholarships for Macon County residents. They try to award three $1,000 scholarships to college students each year, based on essays they write.

Sgt. 1st Class Eleuterio “Ponch” Medina, who has been serving with the Army National Guard for 15 years, said he and other combat veterans have been following Sandoval’s journey on Facebook.

Medina said veterans appreciate what Sandoval is doing and they are trying to help him out along the way. Medina, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, said he planned to ride with Sandoval to his next stop in Springfield.

Debbie Coziahr, co-owner of the Forsyth dealership, said she first saw a post on Facebook about Sandoval’s quest about 18 months ago. She contacted him and told him she would like to be on his intinerary.

“Mrs. Coziahr is a heck of a lady,” Sandoval said, adding that she has shown him excellent hospitality. “If not for dealerships like the Coziahrs, we wouldn’t have made half the impact.”

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