GIBBON, Neb. — Russ Ash gets a lump in his throat when he talks about it.
Ash, whose right leg was amputated in mid-February, was enjoying a benefit fundraiser in his honor last Sunday at Gibbon’s American Legion Post 310 when he noticed that people kept coming and going out of the hall.
“They’d go out and come back in, two or three at a time, and I didn’t know why,” Ash said.
Then 15 people lined up across from each other. The double garage doors opened in the back of the hall, and old friend Donnie Indecott rode in on a red “trike” Yamaha Venture Royale 1300 motorcycle.
Indecott got off the three-wheel motorcycle and presented it to Ash as a gift from the Legion Riders.
“It was awesome! The look on his face ... he broke down,” Indecott said. The Yamaha will replace the red motorcycle that Ash no longer can ride.
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Indecott and Ash have been friends for nearly 50 years.
Ash, 66, joined the Gibbon Legion Riders two years ago, but he has been riding a motorcycle since he was a teenager. Legion Riders are a national subsidiary of the American Legion. There currently are 110,000 American Legion Riders across the nation in 2,000 legion chapters.
“I knew when Russ lost his leg that he was worried about not being able to ride,” Indecott said. He and Ash had a mutual friend, Henry Meza, also an amputee, who recently had purchased a new trike. “I called Henry and asked him if he still had his old trike,” Indecott said. “He did.”
Indecott went out to see the motorcycle with Jason Royle, the Gibbon Legion Riders road captain, and Steve Kautz, the Legion Riders director.
“We agreed this is exactly what we wanted,” Royle said.
Kautz added, “This would definitely get him back on the road again.”
Indecott went back to his Legion Riders “brothers” and asked for contributions. “Everybody pitched in whatever they could,” he said. Andersen Wrecking of Kearney paid the tax and license plates.
Ash, who is retired, had his right knee replaced Feb. 13 at CHI Health Good Samaritan, but surgery was complicated by an aneurysm behind his knee.
“The next day, it felt like my leg was on fire. They told me I had blood clots,” he said. He takes a blood thinner for his aneurysms, but he had to stop taking it 10 days before surgery as a precaution against blood loss.
“They didn’t think my blood would clot so fast, but it did,” he said.
Ash was in the hospital for three weeks, home for two weeks, then hospitalized for three more weeks. He was released last Friday, just in time to attend the Legion benefit in his honor.
He will be fitted with a prosthesis “as soon as the doctor gives the OK,” and he hopes to go to Chadron with the Legion Riders for a regional romp in June .
“We’ve got a couple of pickups going, so if I can’t get on the bike, at least I can get there,” Ash said.
Indecott said, “We will make sure he participates one way or another.”
Ash also expects to attend a state romp in Gibbon in July that will draw nearly 200 riders from across the state. The 43-member Gibbon Legion Riders ride about 1,200 miles a year. They also ride in parades and funerals and formed a flag line during opening ceremonies at the new Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home in Kearney in January.
“Sometimes a whole group goes out, riders from Kearney, Gibbon and Wood River,” Ash said. “We just like to go. We have a good time. We don’t get rowdy. We just have a good time.”
Ash, who works part time at Walmart, did not serve in the military because he lost his right eye years ago, but his great-grandfather is a veteran. That entitles him to membership in the Sons of the American Legion and the Legion Riders.
The conventional Kawasaki motorcycle he and Karen used to ride now sits in a corner of their son’s garage. They have ridden it to South Dakota and to Denver, “but I’ll never ride to Denver again, too much city traffic,” Ash said.
Raising his eyes to take in that Yamaha Venture Royal 1300 sitting in the driveway, he swallowed hard.
“This community will never let a brother go without,” he said.
Royle added, “This is just what we do for each other. We do everything in our power to take care of one of our brothers.”
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