Milford resident takes cross-country trip to raise money for scholarships

MILFORD — From Slaughter Beach to San Francisco, Calif. and back again, Milford resident Richard Benedict finally arrived home again Saturday after a three-week trip on his motorcycle that took him through 15 states.

Mr. Benedict was to ride in the American Legion’s Legacy Run, joining more than 300 motorcyclists who gathered in Fort Dodge, Kansas to ride to the national convention held in Reno, Nev.

Together, the riders helped raise more than $1.2 million for scholarships benefitting children of military service members who died in action or came home disabled.

“It’s all about the kids,” Mr. Benedict said.

But the ride took him further than just the national convention. It took him 6,793 miles to be exact.

“When I started, I went over to Slaughter Beach because it was the closest coastal point,” he said proudly. From there, he rode with two others from the American Legion in Dover to where they would meet other Legion riders.

“We met with the others there in Fort Dodge, Kan. and rode to Reno, Nev. After I got to Reno, I went from there to San Francisco and back to make it a true coast to coast trip. I had to get back to Slaughter Beach before I could come home,” he said.

During the trip, Mr. Benedict helped dedicate a new veterans memorial, participated in flag wreath laying ceremonies and visited with family members who live across the country, including his son who lives in Denver, his sister who lives in Missouri and his mother in Pittsburgh, Pa.

American Legion’s nationwide work hard to raise money for the scholarship program throughout the year, such Mr. Benedict’s Legion in Dover which hosted a bike night every Wednesday. But what surprised him more were people who donated during his cross-country trip.

“We had a lot of people as we were traveling who would see the bikes and ask where we were going. We’d explain it and they’d just give us money towards the program,” he said.

Mr. Benedict recalled a woman he met at a Walmart who asked about his Legion vest. After explaining his trip, she gave him a $20 donation in memory of her late husband who was also a veteran.

“When you go through the small towns, people line the streets and kids wave the flag. It really restores your faith. Men, young and old, standing at attention, saluting. It brought tears to my eyes sometimes going through,” he said.

The Vietnam veteran who served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967 and in the Army from 1964 to 67 said he only made the coast-to-coast ride at the insistence of his wife, Ruth, but would do it again “in a heartbeat.”

After his own military service, Mr. Benedict went on to work for and retire from the Department of Defense. He now enjoys photography and is a member of the Rotary Club in Milford and the American Legion.

He is the historian for his Legion post in Dover and the American Legion’s Department of Delaware. He has previously been the co-chairman for the Delaware Veteran’s Stand Down, a yearly statewide event held in conjunction with the VA and government and local agencies to provide a one-stop shop for veterans support.

He also served as the commander for the Milford AMVETS post for two years and was the Delaware representative to the National Executive Committee for the AMVETS for two years.

Riding coast-to-coast to support the scholarship fund through the American Legion may be one of his favorite volunteer activities, however.

“In some ways, it was humbling. I don’t know how to explain it. Everybody had a lot of the same goals in mind. There was comradery,” he said.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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