American Legion Riders help local family after house fire in Veguita

........................................................................................................................................................................................

When Joel Brown, New Mexico American Legion Riders state vice president, heard about the fire that took the home of Veguita residents, Frank Ortega, and his son, Johnny Leyba, on Dec. 19, he knew he had to do something.

He called Aaron Dean, chairman of the New Mexico Operation Wounded Warrior program and former New Mexico American Legion Riders state president.

According to their website, the New Mexico Operation Wounded Warrior (OWW) program is operated by the New Mexico American Legion Riders (NMALR), a motorcycle association organized through the American Legion known for their charitable work, and makes donations to veterans and servicemen and is the largest of its kind.

Through OWW, the Legion Riders collect hygiene, comfort and personal items, and use monetary donations to purchase requested items, gift certificates, or make donations, which they distribute where needed.

When Brown and Dean, from American Legion Post 80, Chapter 18 in Grants, found out about the hard times Ortega and Leyba, who are both veterans, had recently fallen on, they decided to take action.

Last Wednesday, Dean and Brown rolled into the Belen American Legion post like a couple of leather-clad St. Nicks, bearing two checks for $750, each to help the father and son get back on their feet.

"We're a bunch of vets that like to ride and support other vets," said Brown. "We're here to support everybody."

"I'm very, very grateful ― surprised. It's good to know we do have back up," said Ortega.


-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.