MILTON — Kickstands come up 11 a.m. April 8 for the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association FL 20-3 4th Annual PTSD Awareness Ride.
The CVMA supports veterans through such rides, but their Women’s Auxiliary that supports the riders, according to chapter president Joe Garner.
“Without the auxiliary, we’d be crippled,” Garner said. “They do the setting up, cleaning up…The guys make the mess and the ladies clean up…They’re so dedicated, so committed,” he said.
The auxiliary comprises CVMA members’ spouses. They seek out donations for the ride raffles, cook food for various CVMA events, and do the setting and cleaning up.
Current auxiliary leader Betty Vukovcan and two members, Mary Mabie and Carol Cumbo, shared their experiences with the auxiliary.
Vukovcan has been with the auxiliary four years. Her husband, Joseph, served in the Navy 30 years and retired in 2008, three years after they arrived in Santa Rosa County.
Joining civilian life was a shock to Betty and her husband.
“The military has camaraderie,” Betty said. “It’s lonely without your brothers.”
During a motorcycle ride, Joseph met some other veteran riders who invited him to join the CVMA, Betty said.
“He wanted me to meet them,” Betty said. “Then I met the other women and we had a lot in common … There’s loneliness when you get out (of the military) — the wives, too.”
This has been a theme: finding people who understand what it was like for veterans who found fraternal connections again and their spouses, who lived on base, who moved from place to place, who couldn’t relate easily to non-military wives.
‘IT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD’
“(The CVMA) brought family to us,” Mary said. “They made it like home. They’re all wonderful ladies. You know you’re not alone,” she said.
Mary is a past auxiliary leader, now on the fundraiser committee, and has been in the auxiliary seven years. Her husband, Ken, was one of the local chapter’s founders, a Vietnam veteran who served two tours from 1970 to ’73, according to Mary. The two have lived in Santa Rosa County for 12 years.
What’s foremost in Mary’s mind about being with the CVMA and Women’s Auxiliary, she said, is the assistance, like when the members build ramps for veterans who need help getting in and out of their homes.
“It makes you feel good doing something for your fellow man,” she said.
AN INSTANT FRIENDSHIP
Carol’s husband, Rodney, was in the Air Force 20 years and retired in 1980. He was in Vietnam from ’70 to ’71, she said. They’ve lived in Santa Rosa County for the past 10 years.
Carol could easily relate to the loneliness.
“I was home with two kids on my own,” while Rodney was in the service, she said, adding she had a harder time transitioning to civilian life when he retired.
“I didn’t know what civilians did. We lived on military bases. Our friends were military. We moved every 18 months,” she said.
However, Carol said she felt a part of the CVMA when her husband joined and went through the patching ceremony.
She wasn’t an official auxiliary member yet but they called her name, too.
“I had to raise my hand and swear an oath,” she said.
“I think with the women there’s camaraderie,” Carol said. “Our husbands were all in (the military). They understand. They don’t have to explain. It’s very easy. You’re almost a friend the minute you meet,” she said.
HELP WHEN NEEDED
Members quickly unite to help one another.
The girlfriends, the unmarried significant others to the CVMA members, can be part of the CVMA known as support.
One support member lost a daughter-in-law and was dealing with her grief and caring for a one-year-old granddaughter, so the auxiliary brought her food and helped her with funeral arrangements, according to Betty.
Members only have to express a need on the private Facebook group and others will step in to take care of it, according to Carol.
That’s all it takes. The need is understood, and the need is filled.
“You don’t have to beg,” she said.
Saturday's ride starts at the Harley-Davidson dealership at 6385 Pensacola Blvd. in Pensacola, stops at the Cove Pub at 4537 Chantilly Way in Milton, then Doc's Courtyard Cafe at 5198 Willing St. in Milton, then Rumors at 4233 Highway 87 in Navarre formerly Cricket's, and ends at VFW Post 4407 at 1783 Abercrombie Rd. in Midway.