Although no longer on active duty, they never considered themselves relieved of duty


Photo courtesy Dori Sugay Members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 33-4 with Certificate of Appreciation presented by PGA HOPE that includes a monetary donation to help fund the golf programs for veterans free of charge. Kneeling holding the vest is Daniel “Steel” Knapp.


By Dorie Sugay

Dorie Sugay

They were deployed to Vietnam, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas.  Most were in hostile situations.  They risked their lives to protect our freedom, to allow us to enjoy our liberty.

Many of those who were fortunate to come home returned with scars — ones you can’t see and others with scars too painful to see. They came home to a country that did not know how to appropriately and adequately support them, back to a world that did not fully understand the wounds they endured. But these highly dedicated, loyal citizens will be the first to say with conviction and no regrets — that they chose to serve and despite what they may have lost or endured — they would enlist again.

Although no longer on active duty, these soldiers never considered themselves relieved of duty. They believe that their “oath of enlistment has no expiration date.” Facing challenges of their own and looking for help, yet wanting to help others, a few veterans (who happened to enjoy riding motorcycles), after overcoming overwhelming obstacles, founded the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association in 2001. Ten years later,  the local chapter (CA 33-4) was born in Monterey.

CVMA is not a motorcycle club. It is an association of “Veterans helping Veterans,” who happen to also enjoy and prefer to ride motorcycles. If you see them riding through town, they are likely carrying out a mission.

These veterans are still serving our country. They are still fighting — but this time, they are fighting for the lives of veterans overwhelmed by mental health challenges; they are fighting poverty and homelessness among veterans, and fighting loneliness and isolation among veterans by stepping in as their extended family members.  They exist to remember the prisoners of war and the missing in action, and to honor those killed in action and support their families.

According to the Veterans Affairs, about 22 veterans commit suicide a day.

“I would not be surprised if every chapter member knows someone who is a statistic of ’22 a day,’” said Robert Olaires, treasurer/chaplain of the local chapter. CVMA members recognize the compelling importance of “being there” for their comrades.  They provide peer-to-peer support when someone is at risk. This group has silently (without social media or press fanfare) helped other veterans in many other ways — from helping the unhoused find housing, to just helping them survive the scorching heat or the blistering winters.

Recently, they helped a few struggling veteran families with gift cards so they could afford to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Year after year, they have provided children of struggling veterans with Christmas gifts. They escort deceased military personnel to their resting place.  The group’s donation helped renovate and rebuild the Gilroy Veterans Hall kitchen, and provided support to Operation Freedom Paws, which trains service dogs to assist veterans.  Wreaths Across America has been a recipient of the group’s kindness.

Recently, the chapter purchased tires for the car that transports the children of a single mother on active duty with limited resources. They have picked up donated furniture and delivered it to a newly housed veteran. They help veterans and veterans services organizations in any way they can.

The emblem and logo of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association are in the shape of the skull and ace of spades representing the death war leaves in its wake, surrounded by the color red which represents the blood that has been shed on the battlefield.

Other colors on the patch include the military gold color which represents all the branches of the military service of the United States; black which represents the heavy hearts possessed by those who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives; and for those considered missing in action or prisoners of war.

The members wear black leather vests with this emblem and a few other patches like one that reads, “Our oath of enlistment has no expiration date.” The next time you hear the thundering sound of motorcycles, take a second to look — it may be our Veterans helping Veterans coming through.  Wave, smile and clap. Show them you appreciate their continued service.  But please don’t stop there, the group could use help and some things won’t cost a cent.

The more veterans who join CVMA, the more veterans will get help.

Dorie Sugay is the executive director of Visiting Angels and involved with senior issues. The agency is launching a fundraiser in 2024 to raise funds for CVMA CA 33-4’s effort to help the unhoused. Details will be released soon. She can be reached at (408) 846-2988 or email her at [email protected].