Not like your average hobby group, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA) is very different from even the groups they share the most similarities with. For starters, they are not a Motorcycle Club, they’re a 501c3 non-profit organization, who’s members happen to also be motorcycle enthusiasts. At first glance this difference may seem small, perhaps even unapparent, but it’s a major part of the groups guiding principles and is intended to help them combat the sometimes negative connotations that can be associated with motorcycle groups. As an association, rather than a club, they don’t maintain any sort of clubhouse and all of their meetings are held in public view. With a mission like theirs, there isn’t anything they need to hide anyways.
“We have one mission,” Jay Pilger, the local chapter - CVMA 3-6 - Public Relations Officer explains, “it’s vets helping vets.”
It’s a mission that Pilger, a former Sergeant in the U.S. Army, and the rest of the organization take seriously. So much so that they ritually empty their chapter's bank account at the end of each year. Whether that means they’re buying food and gifts to support a veteran family through the holidays, making improvements to a disabled vet’s home, or distributing those funds to other veteran-centric nonprofits who can get more bang for the buck - CVMA is entirely about giving and money in the bank means there’s more to give.
While there are a lot of veteran-oriented nonprofit organizations that are doing important work in the area, CVMA has a boots-on-the-ground, quick-to-act sort of approach that drew Pilger into work with them specifically. It was at one of his first meetings with the group that it was decided to build a wheelchair access ramp for a vet’s house. Within only a few days materials were bought, the project designed and built, and a ramp installed.
“That really inspired me to get involved,” Pilger says of the group's rapid response approach to addressing that need.
It’s much more than that of course. Every CVMA member is a veteran or the spouse of a veteran and having a tight-knit community that understands the experiences that are precursors to that title can be a major difference maker.
“It’s a support system,” says Pilger.
Whether they’ve run out of gas on a long trip, could use expert advice or professional resources, or just need to talk to someone with a shared understanding, there’s a national network of people ready to respond and take care of one another. Pilger himself says he often finds himself helping members with their business taxes, since leaving the Army he and his wife have built a successful business providing tax services.
This year, in what Pilger sees as evidence of their growth and active pursuit of community involvement, CVMA 3-6 was asked to lead the first group of riders participating in this year's Realities Ride and Rally, the world's largest poker run and a major fundraiser benefiting Realities for Children.
If you’d like to learn more about CVMA, donate, or know a veteran who could use their help, Pilger says to reach out on their social media or visit the website at www.combatvet.us to find more information on your local chapter. Or, you can just “approach any member wearing that patch.”