American Legion in McDonough to hold Patriot Ride Fundraiser
By Jason A. Smith
After nearly two years, local military veterans are continuing to seek the community’s help in bringing home one of their own who was killed in World War II.
The Willie B. Hatcher American Legion Post 516 of McDonough is sponsoring a Patriot Ride scheduled for this Saturday at 8 a.m. The 50-mile ride will begin at Shiloh Baptist Church 262 Macon St., in McDonough.
The fundraiser is being organized for the post’s namesake. Willie B. Hatcher was a Henry County native and World War II veteran who was killed and buried in Manila, Philippines, said Andrew Hall, operations manager for the post.
“No one from his family in Henry County has ever visited his gravesite,” said Hall. “So we are trying to raise enough money to bring his body home.”
Hatcher, of McDonough, was born in 1917 and was drafted into the United States Army during 1941. He was assigned to the 97th Engineer General Support Group in Manila, and served as a Technician Fifth Class. Hatcher was killed in action on Nov. 1, 1944, and is interred at the United States Manila American Cemetery in Manila.
The American Legion established Post 516 on April 13, 1953, as a temporary chapter. It was formally chartered in March of 1985.
The entry fee for the motorcycle ride is $35 per rider and includes a T-shirt. Due to limited financial resources, the American Legion is requesting that local residents and business owners donate funds to support the endeavor.
Efforts to raise money to bring Hatcher home were initially launched at a Veterans Day ceremony in 2014. Hall said although an announcement about a fundraiser was made last year, and a ride was scheduled, post officials had to cancel it due to inclement weather.
“It’s going on two years now, and we’re not giving up on it,” he said.
Hall said the Commander of Post 516, Alton Head, plans to visit Hatcher’s gravesite. The post’s aim, Hall added, is to raise $10,000 through the Patriot Ride in honor of Hatcher.
“That money will take care of everything -- get the body home, get it buried, have a ceremony, everything,” said Hall.
Any additional funds generated at the event will be used to support local veterans with medical care and services.
John Love is the committee chair for motorcycle riders at the American Legion post. He said the fundraiser will also feature prizes and giveaways for participants, including helmets, motorcycle clothing, Tablets. He reiterated the American Legion’s goal to honor the sacrifices of military veterans.
“We’re bringing home our veterans whenever possible, to bring them home to their families,” said Love.
In the event of bad weather, the American Legion has scheduled Sept. 24 as a make-up day for the Patriot Ride, if needed. For more information, call 678-782-5466 or visit www.wbhlegion.com.