MILLINOCKET, Maine — Like so many millions of others, Alexander Pelkey did his duty. A U.S. Army private first class, he served in the European theater during World War II, spending about a month as a German prisoner of war, his son says.
In memory of the elder Pelkey, 58-year-old Francis Pelkey of Millinocket rode his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a Donald V. Henry American Legion Post 80 Riders club motorcycle run Saturday that raised money for the Adopt A Soldier program, which benefits those on duty today.
“It’s for all the veterans, really,” Francis Pelkey said. “They do so much for this country that it’s really important to do something for them.”
About 50 motorcyclists and a half-dozen passengers raised at least $650, including a $130 donation from United Bikers of Maine, that will help pay for care packages that will be assembled and sent by members of Donald V. Henry American Legion Post 80 of Millinocket to U.S. military personnel serving overseas.
They rode from Post 80 on Route 11 to Grindstone, Patten, Island Falls, Benedicta and back again, about 130 miles round trip, as part of the fundraiser, said club member Rick Cyr Jr., 33, of Medway. They also stopped and were grateful to receive free food at Peggy’s Bar and Grille of Medway and the Bear’s Den, a cafe in Benedicta.
Assembled and mailed by Post 80 auxiliary member Jean Burke and Legion Post 80 member Ben Fitzgerald, who began the mailings four years ago, the care packages are a mixture of all sorts of good and necessary things, said Susan Kittrick, 40, of Millinocket.
Cans of tuna, cookies, socks, energy drinks, eye drops, soles and shoe powder, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes, granola bars, raisins, hard candy and a whole bunch of beef jerky, store-bought or homemade.
“Whatever these guys can’t get overseas — that’s legal — we send to them,” Kittrick said.
“Anything we can do to make their days better, we try to do,” said Jessica Pelkey, 25, of Medway, Cyr’s girlfriend and Francis Pelkey’s daughter. “They are putting their lives on the line to save ours.”
The packages go to any personnel the volunteers can find addresses for, though they try to target Katahdin region residents or natives serving overseas, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, Kittrick said.
Adopt A Soldier packages go out continually, depending on volunteers’ money and available time. Each kit costs about $30 to assemble and ship, Burke said.
The club members have sold lottery tickets to help the program, raising $600 with that effort, Jessica Pelkey said.
They like to combine benefits with biker runs, Cyr said, as it’s a way of adding a community benefit to something they love to do and probably would do anyway — get together to ride their motorcycles.
Anyone interested in contributing to the Adopt A Soldier effort or joining any branch of the Legion can call 723-8088.