By Kellie Speed
What started out with two US Marine veterans in Massachusetts looking for a way to help fellow veterans has turned into a federally recognized war veteran organization with numerous nationwide charters.
“The motorcycle club culture was founded on veterans so we were only trying to get back to our roots,” said James Crosby, who co-founded the American Infidels Veteran Motorcycle Club with Matt Nelson. “We have been able to give people that have lost their way purpose in life and that purpose being in the community and watching out for the people that they care about whether it’s people in the club or their family.
We constructed the Club based on three major points of people’s lives – family, work and club. Those are the three major things that you need to be fully invested in in your life. If you are going to be in the Club, you’re going to need to be able to give the same type of effort to all of these. We were just trying to take the approach that we care and we were able to create this environment that people want.”
Whether the American Infidels Veteran Motorcycle Club is organizing nationwide runs for fallen warrior brothers like Mike “Wildman” Kennedy, Rob “Tinkle” Richards and Stephen “Jackel” Jackel, their mission is simple – honor the many freedoms we enjoy, which are “a direct result of the bloodshed on the battlefield by the warriors that have come before us.”
“When I was in Iraq, this was something I had talked about with one of my buddies, Staff Sgt. William Callahan, who unfortunately ended up dying, so he’s part of this story,” Crosby said. “With the American Infidels, Matt and my goal was to create something – a purpose for people, for a portion of the population that signed up to do more for others and to be part of something bigger than themselves. What we do with the Club is we teach people how to get involved in their community and take care of each other. Semper Fi, always faithful – you don’t know what it truly means until you get out. You have no idea what you just signed up for because you just joined the biggest group of families. We are empowering people to stand up, have a voice and work with each other and that’s just what we have done with the Club.”
The Club provides numerous undertakings on behalf of our nation’s veterans. “Each charter must accomplish the mission to stay in the organization or they will be removed,” Nelson added. “Some do free hunting trips, motorcycle runs and benefits that give directly to wounded vets or other vets causes, suicide prevention, career help through our network of friends, politicians and advocates, legal help, navigating healthcare available to vets, and on the day-to-day, we are supporting each other and fellow vets through the hard times of life. That’s probably the most underrated yet most beneficial. Getting people to socialize and help network before the real hard times come upon someone.”
Nelson worked to have the American Infidels Veteran Motorcycle Club become federally recognized. “Due to our membership criteria, we decided to file officially and follow the federal regulations in regards to 501c19 War Veterans’ Organizations,” he said. “There are two types of 501c19 veterans’ organizations – war veterans’ and veterans’ organizations. We keep 90 percent war time veterans and 10 percent “other,” which includes non-war time veterans and patriots. To put it in a common analogy, we are a step above the American Legion because the Legion is a veteran’s organization, not a war veteran’s organization. Being the latter, we are able to issue tax deductible receipts for donations to our organization without the need for a secondary 501c3 regular type charity with more specific guidelines.
It’s a lot of red tape that we’ve done on our own and have recently contracted out to professionals. My proudest moment as one of the founders is when the brothers accomplish a mission. No matter how small. Especially when it’s helping a brother or sister vet in crisis. It’s not easy and it’s urgent so the ability for our network to react is extremely rewarding. Sadly, sometimes we hear of things too late or we just can’t affect the situation in a positive way. Those are the hardest and most discouraging moments. It’s a double-edged sword. Secondarily, when there are great social events and you can see the crowd and brothers having a great time.”