Jennifer "Tots" Hadley is our Chapter Historian, thank you Tots for the information contained here:
CVMA NATIONAL HISTORY
Beginning in 1999, several Veterans from different ends of the country, particularly Vietnam Veterans, began searching for the brotherhood they were missing from their military service. They also all shared the hobby of motorcycle riding. Many had looked into joining various motorcycle clubs in their local areas. “I wanted to become part of something; like a brotherhood. Something where there were a group of us for some purpose” says Earl “Doc” Reichart, CVMA #2. However, due to individual personal reasons, the world of MC’s was not attractive to most. In the words of Joe “Whiskey Joe” Kozie, CVMA FM #14, “I talked to some guys and they told me what I was going to have to do to prospect and I kind of thought about that. And thought…well damn that sounds like basic training again, you know, and I’m getting too old for that”
In their searches for a riding organization of some type that shared their desire of brotherhood and greater good, these Veteran’s turned to the new phenomenon that was the Internet. After searching various Veteran organizations and motorcycle organizations, they found the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Club (CVMC). The website, ran by “Iceman” out of Georgia, state that the CVMC had thousands of members across the nation and chapters in every state. The website was “all about brotherhood; it was all about remembering our POW’s; remembering our MIA’s and honoring our KIA. That’s basically all I needed to see” explains Mike “Gunner” Minor, CVMA FM#25.
The only requirement to join was the applicant had to be a Veteran who served in a combat zone and was willing to make the “Run to the Wall” every year. Additionally, there was a membership due of “roughly” $300 (this amount was apparently different for each applicant). Applicants were asked to send their dues to Iceman who would then issue them their colors (back patches). The original back patch of the CVMC was very different than the patch of today. Although the skull and spade (“Skully”) used today was the same, the original colors included green which was a homage to our Vietnam Veterans. Additionally, the back patch consisted of the typical MC 3-piece patch: the “Combat Vets” top rocker, the “USA” location bottom rocker and Skully in the center and the “MC” cube to the right. Little did those original members know, the CVMC was nothing like what they thought it was.
After a short period of time, it was revealed that “Iceman” was a scammer. The CVMC was, essentially, an Internet scam that preyed on Veterans who were longing for the commodore of an organization that promoted honoring the service of their fallen brothers through the hobby of motorcycle riding. Veterans who never received any positive acknowledgment for their service or sacrifice for our country. Veterans who after so many years, still longed to belong a group who understood them like no one else could…an organization of fellow Veterans who (despite how America treated them on their return from war) still loved their country and fellow Brothers and Sisters in arms.
Doc recollects when he began to question the legitimacy of the CVMC:
"After not being in the motorcycle world, at that time, a lot, I went for it and I sent him a check for a couple hundred dollars and filled out the application. About a week later, I got an overnight priority package with a set of colors. Well I wasn’t that naïve; I know you don’t just go throwing on colors in an area if you want to stay alive for very long. So, I started doing some checking…. turns out it was a scam."
However, the loss of a few hundred dollars was nothing in comparison to the other ramifications this internet scam put the “Original 45” through from wearing their CVMC 3-piece patch in the MC world. The following is a recollection of the early days of the CVMC patch, as told by the first Vice President of the CVMA, “Gunner” FM#25:
"Way back, say, the beginning of 2000 or there abouts, [is] when I found the CVMC on the Internet. Everything I read said this is where I belong: Brotherhood, motorcycles, remembering our fallen and missing Brothers. I joined by sending a $300 money order to Satsuma AL.
Within a very short time after reading emails from the President and later having it pointed out that there were less than 50 people in the address list when the Pres. said we were 25k strong around the world questions began to surface.
Suffice it to say I sewed that 3 piece patch on with an MC cube and a bottom rocker that said 'USA'. I wore that cut one time to a biker rally. There I was encircled by about 15 or so MC members wanting to know who the hell I was and how it is I thought I could wear those colors without talking to or paying respects to the powers that be. Mind you I was the only member then in Kansas City so my wife was my back. Needless to say, she became very nervous when they pushed her out of the way. Long story short I was told to take it off or much stronger convincing would begin. I said I understood, but I didn't take off the cut, I walked back to the bike got my jackers and covered the vest.
Our now past Brother, “Icecube” experienced a similar situation in Southeast Missouri at about the same time. When I called Iceman and asked him why I was confronted he said we were cleared to fly by the big 5 (1% MC’s), apparently that didn't include the locals here as they had never heard of the CVMC. When several members started to raise some questions about recognition Iceman got the idea we/he would be ok if we sewed an AMA (American Motorcycle Association) patch on. Which lasted as long as a fart in hurricane.
We all came to the conclusion that we were being scammed, and threatened Iceman with visits. He then resigned and sent everything to Daddydawg (1st President of the CVMA).
Not long after that we had a member in California knocked off his bike with his wife on back. They stripped him of his vest and left him in the middle of the intersection. He resigned not long after. We also had a member in Arizona who had his house set on fire. Thank goodness he wasn't home at the time. He resigned and moved to another state."
The “Original 45” came about when the scam was revealed by Doc. When confronted in 2001, Iceman turned all records over to Daddydawg (a member in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri). All they had to go off of in terms of finding all their members were emails that Iceman had sent out that listed 45 members of the CVMC. The members decided to take this scam and turn it into a legitimate organization that served and honored Veterans. It was decided to turn the “CVMC” into an organization instead of a club. Reasons included easier acceptance into the motorcycle world (to include official motorcycle clubs) as well as the general public. Additionally, an organization does not “prospect”, which was one of the reasons the Original 45 were first interested in the CVMC to begin with.
Now with the true beginnings of the CVMA in the making, the next order of business was to address the organization’s colors and exposure to the rest of the world. Particularly, the Original 45 wanted to attract more combat Vets to become members. It was around this time the CVMA members decided to try and affiliate with the VFW. However, it did not sit well with some. Historically, the VFW was not receptive or welcoming to Vietnam Veterans. Many VFW’s refused membership to Korean War and Vietnam Veterans stating these conflicts were “campaigns not war.” However, the VFW offered exposure and vetting for potential new members.
Gunner explains the transition from CVMC and the 3-piece patch to the CVMA and the relationship with the VFW:
"After all of this we said to each other all we wanted to do was ride together and enjoy the Brotherhood we cherished. We decided to reorganize as an Association. We tried removing the MC cube and the USA rocker and replaced the rocker with an ASSN. patch. We got the same bad reception.
We then thought if we could affiliate with the VFW, we could change the old colors and use the VFW logo in the center. Our original colors were very similar to the Vietnam service ribbon and also very close to the ICMC (Iron Coffins Motorcycle Club) colors. So, we opted for black and Military gold as a back ground. Like I said, we used the VFW logo for approximately 15 months or so. During that time, we were invited to their national meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. 44 CVMA members showed up that day and the reception was not good. We didn’t fit the image the VFW wanted. We were asked to give up our patch and wear something the VFW came up with and to change our name. That’s when we broke from the VFW."
At this point, the Original 45 decided the CVMA needed its own identity. Daddydawg had, at one time, belonged to a t-shirt club and took the lead on designing the CVMA patch that would be unique to the newly formed organization. One that would identify them as a motorcycle association and not an MC. One that told the world they were an organization made up of and made for Veterans. Skully originally came from “Wee”, an Original 45 member from Maine who originally used the design for his bike shop logo. It was decided to continue to use the skull and spade as the main logo. Daddydawg also made the suggestion (which was agreed upon) to use black and gold as the background and remove the word “Motorcycle” from the patch. When asked why, he stated “The motorcycle we ride will tell the world we are a motorcycle association.” In December of 2002, the CVMA, an independent Veterans organization with its own logo and patch was formed.
What started as a scam preying on Veterans, has now turned into a nationally recognized association with the exact opposite mission. Today, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association has (legitimately) grown in membership well into the tens of thousands. There are chapters in all 50 states as well as Germany and Korea. Members are drawn to the CVMA for many reasons, but the two biggest reasons are “Brotherhood” and “Vets Helping Vets.” The CVMA is considered a non-profit 501c organization whose members donate not only money but their time and other resources to various Veterans causes. From escorting the remains of a fallen service member to their final resting place, to building wheelchair ramps for disabled Veterans, to passing out food and clothing to homeless Veterans, the members of the CVMA have made it their mission to ensure no Veteran or service member (or their families) are forgotten or left behind. The term “Original Intent” is used a lot with the current membership. When asked about the “Original Intent” of the CVMA, Doc stated “Local based with smaller chapters where groups would participate and support local Veteran needs.” By each chapter identifying Veterans needs in their area and doing what they can to make a difference, every member of the CVMA is keeping with the “original intent” of this organization and the Original 45.
Gunner sums up the CVMA by saying, “CVMA is best when it’s the CVMA; not when we are trying to be something else. Although we do share many rules and values as an MC, we are not an MC. Brotherhood is very strong in the MC world. It’s also in this organization.
Original 3-piece patch design of the CVMC
Used from 2001-2002 when the CVMA affiliated with the VFW
Current CVMA patch established in 2002
(worn by full members only)
Auxiliary (spouses of full members of the CVMA) and Support (non-combat Veterans) Member designs