Nov. 11 is Veterans Day—a day dedicated to those who have fought for our freedoms and liberties, both past and present. I thought it appropriate to highlight an organization that was founded only about six years ago. It stands for those who fight for this country, but often come back from battle needing assistance and not finding it in an overwhelmed system of red tape.
Nation of Patriots was formed by a group of relatively young men, led by Bill Sherer. Their mission is to promote awareness of wounded veterans and what they—and their families—face every day, and to raise funds to distribute to veterans needing help. I recently spoke to him, to find out more.
About eight years ago, Bill Sherer was a college grad working in a nice office in Chicago. But he had friends who had gone into the military, and one in particular left college, enlisted into the Marines and was deployed to combat overseas. According to Sherer, his friend “had gotten banged up pretty good, and he came back different from how he had been.”
For Sherer, that was a wake up call, of sorts. He noticed that soldiers were coming back from combat and needed help. “The VA Hospitals were severely unprepared for the aftermath of wounded soldiers as well as those dealing with psychological trauma. People are waiting for care,” he told me, and he “couldn’t comprehend these people being out of work, losing their homes, with spouses or family members having to become caregivers.” So he decided to do something.
Sherer contacted a lawyer, got some friends together, looked at how other nonprofit groups functioned and in 2008 Nation of Patriots was born—they became an official 501(c)3 organization in 2009, based outside of Madison, WI. According to Sherer, “[our] audience is about 30- to 70-year olds, but the focus of our messaging is to reach younger people showing what veterans really face. We want to share respect of armed forces with younger kids who are buried in their phones and devices….”
The individuals who work for Nation of Patriots are 100% volunteers. Every penny that is collected goes directly to veterans needing help. They raise funds in a few ways: through corporate/business sponsorship opportunities, by selling merchandise and through events. Says Sherer, “We challenge groups to raise up to or more than $1,000. If they meet that goal we work with them to find a family to support in their area. If they don’t, the funds are usually distributed across the country. No matter what the amount, each location sends their donations to our central bank where we log, track and monitor every penny that comes in. October 1st is our deadline to send in donations. At that point we tally everything up and start working to give it all away!”
The main event they do every year is referred to as The Patriot Tour. The American flag symbolizes the states within our country and the struggles through the centuries to fight for what our constitution represents. How appropriate that one flag embarks on a motorcycle tour of 48 states, bringing awareness to combat veterans as it rolls across the country escorted by groups of bikers.
A Flag’s Journey
On the first flag tour in 2009, Bill Scherer essentially carried the flag himself, stopping at various Harley-Davidson dealerships. He raised $2,100 that year. In 2010 the organization implemented new methods of messaging, planning and execution. But the biggest change was that now groups would escort one singular flag, officially passing it on to the next group at the end of their segment of the ride. “There is a shock and awe value of one flag being transported from one group to another” across the country, Scherer notes. This year they have raised approximately $140,000 and it will be distributed to about 60 families across the country. Groups may be aware at the local level of someone needing help, but overall the Veterans Administration works with Nation of Patriots to identify veterans/families in need of assistance.
The Patriot Tour begins each year on Memorial Day weekend in Madison, WI, and covers 48 states for about 100 days, returning back home to Madison on Labor day weekend. The flag is escorted mostly by groups of motorcycle riders to the next location where the flag is officially handed to the next group. I say “mostly” because this past August Nate Waldera, an Army veteran, completed a 100-mile paddle board journey with the flag from Chicago to Milwaukee (and he raised almost $7,000 for his segment of the flag’s itinerary).
Looking to the Future
Sherer states that initially he and his friends weren’t taken that seriously, due to their relatively young ages. I think the funds raised and efforts moving forward prove that they are more than serious about this organization’s mission and who they serve. Our soldiers continue to come home from deployment and they face real struggles. As a biker myself, I’ve volunteered at Walter Reed for events such as serving breakfast on Christmas morning to soldiers in long-term care along with their families, I’ve been to funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, and I’ve ridden in Rolling Thunder and been to The Wall. The struggles are real. Consider reaching out to Nations of Patriots and see how you can help.
To those who are or have been active duty military, THANK YOU.
Nation of Patriots website
Contact Nation of Patriots: Here you will find individual email addresses for board members as well as contact info. for regional commanders.