Story by Sara Paul
US Army Veteran Tim Finnegan is a member of a half a dozen or so local organizations. The 26-year-old new father and local bar owner appreciates all these affiliations, but none more than his membership with the Orange County, NY Chapter of the Nam Knights.
“There is nothing that equally matches military brotherhood than this club. There’s no camaraderie in every aspect of friendship that can compare to the Nam Knights,” lauds Finnegan, a two-year member and Monroe resident.
While his Knights brothers jest that they are old enough to be more like fathers, there is nothing to jest about when it comes to the plight and mission of the Orange County Nam Knights, a group that has been established for 26 years and currently has about 40 members. In the lifespan of their parent chapter’s 30 years, the O.C. Nam Knights was the fifth chapter established.
The well-respected motorcycle club is committed to honoring veterans, supporting local law enforcement and raising funds for both, particularly veterans.
“It’s ‘outta sight, outta mind’ when these guys leave the military as they are discharged from all over the country. This makes it harder to keep a support system going,” said Bob Caridi, president of the O.C. chapter for nine years and member for 20 years.
Bob is a US Army Vietnam Veteran and retired NYS Police Trooper.
Community Minded & A Strong Tradition
Bob is proud that his group has accomplished such tasks as raising funds for local police dogs for bullet proof vests and pop locks on police car doors; aiding in funeral escorts; helped out veterans by paying monthly bills; and every year leading the buses from Montgomery to the fall and spring Hudson Valley Honor Flights, both at Stewart Airport.
Notably last year, the group helped fund $2,500 for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Wallkill Park, donated a memorial bench to the Orange County Veterans Memorial Cemetery, and raised $35K for Wreaths Across America.
Beyond the Nam’s own charity events, they also never miss a chance to travel and support events sponsored by other Nam Knights chapters.
The noble brothers also ride together, typically once a week, with fun runs on some weekends, cruising to spots in Pennsylvania and New Paltz, NY for some well-deserved lunch and cigars.
The all-male organization is selective and particular in their membership, all of whom are required to have a Harley Davidson or Indian brand motorcycle and also be a member of the American Legion. The group’s clubhouse is the American Legion Post #488 in Monroe. Potential members, called prospects, require a 100% vote-in by members and are then placed on a probationary period for up to one year.
With the Nam Knights Parent chapter in Carlstadt, NJ, they have about 76 chapters across the US with two in Canada. Members either have law enforcement or military affiliation or both.
A Focus on the Future Generation
The Nam Knights proudly award two scholarships per year: the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) Law Enforcement and Boys State Camp scholarships, each worth $500.
Knights scholarship coordinators Shane Laden and Patrick Rooney acknowledge the importance of these club efforts.
“It’s all about giving back to the community. The kids are really important, and we definitely want to help further their education,” said Laden, Knights Secretary, who is a retired NYPD Narcotics Detective, and disabled US Army Veteran, serving in Desert Shield/ Desert Storm in 2003.
Rooney, who has been Knights Vice-President for nine years, and is a retired NYPD 1st Grade Detective, Highway Patrol for 30 years, enjoys reviewing the scholarship application letters that teens submit each year.
“It’s nice to see that young people we don’t know have an interest in the jobs that we did. I like reading about their interests in law enforcement and the military,” Rooney commented.
Memorial Day Weekend Ride
Perhaps the most notable and memorable of all the club’s events is the Nam Knights Annual Memorial Day Weekend Ride to Washington, D.C.
Hundreds of Nam Knights from hundreds of miles travel to the nation’s capital to represent the prestigious organization and pay their respects to fallen law enforcement officers and military personnel.
“We have a very good representation there, one of the largest representations of all the motorcycle groups,” Bob said, detailing that the busy weekend is highlighted by a Nam Knight’s President’s meeting for officers only, followed by a ride to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, known as “The Wall.”
With more than 500 motorcycles heading to the Memorial, the O.C. Nam Knights are the only ones who receive a police escort, thanks to their friends at the Maryland Police Department.
“It’s surreal at ‘The Wall.’ Everyone is so respectful, as they should be,” said Bob, who is joined by 500 Nam Knights members from far and wide, plus family and friends.
The solemn crowd moves on to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, where, as Laden notes, “It’s a moving afternoon, and we all know a lot of names on that wall.”
The weekend concludes with a Sunday ride through Washington, D.C. with about a half a million rolling motorcycles. Crowds range in the millions.
“There are so many people waving flags and cheering, and it gives you goose bumps! You feel proud. It’s a good day to be an American and a good day to be a Vet,” said Caridi.
Upcoming Annual Events
On Mon., Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day, all members will meet at the American Legion in Monroe and ride to several veteran memorials in Monroe and Harriman. At each site they will lay a wreath and play Taps.
There will also be a free Thanksgiving Dinner for veterans on Sat., Nov. 23, organized by Cathy Rooney and her daughter, Cassie. Though not an official Nam Knights event, the club enthusiastically supports the dinner.
“It’s a great way for the community to say thank you,” commented Cathy.
On Sat., Dec. 7, the O.C. Nam Knights will participate with the New Windsor and the City of Newburgh American Legion Posts to drop wreaths in the Hudson River in Newburgh, NY, in honor of Pearl Harbor Day.
On Sat., Dec. 14, the Nam Knights will host Wreaths Across America at the Orange County Veterans Memorial Cemetery, located at 111 Craigville Rd. in Goshen.
For more information on Wreaths Across America, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org. For more information on the Nam Knights, visit www.namknights.org.