By Megan Schuller
JOLIET,IL- Classic rock from the 60’s and 70’s played as veterans and their families welcomed each other with handshakes while yelling nicknames across the room as they found their seats.
A brotherhood bond that extended beyond decades of wars.
A crowd of black leather jackets stitched with the words “Marine vets, Semper Fi” in black and red outline, and patches from their military experience filled the room. The nicknames they earned were visibly sewn on their hearts below an American flag patch.
Marine veteran motorcycle club chapters from across the Chicagoland area gathered on Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Stone City Post V.F.W. 2199 for the 2nd annual marine vets comedy show fundraiser.
Comedic acts through Collin A. Bullock, Ryan Croft, Mike Maxwell and Timmy Brochu took to the stage one by one. Comedians incorporated both military and everyday life humor into their acts.
Tony Carr, owner of Chicago Comedy Scene Radio said doing shows for the veterans is unlike other shows they do.
“We do all kinds of different shows, but this one is cool because it’s for a good cause. I always tell the [comedians] be careful on content as far as knowing your audience. But by the end of the show they always end up telling us dirty jokes,” Carr said.
Kenneth “Digger” Piehl, 48, President of the Marine Vets MC Ryan Beaupre Memorial Chapter and who is also a Desert Storm veteran, recognizes a need to help other veterans on a local level.
“We also help local veterans… You have other organizations that help out nationally but sometimes it’s hard for the guy down the block to get a little help,” Piehl said. “Everybody got together to have a good time tonight and raise a little money to the people who need it,” Piehl said.
Roughly $1,100 was raised last year for less fortunate veterans according to Piehl.
Dinner and a raffle was held prior to the comedy show. All proceeds from the admission and raffles ticket sales are given back to the less fortunate veteran community.
Donations the organization received went towards the Manteno home which houses disabled veterans and helps get homeless veterans off the streets.
Jason “Tracer” Daniels, 40, treasurer of the Marine Vets Ryan Beaupre Memorial Chapter and Operation Iraqi freedom veteran, said that the veterans housed at the Manteno home are second to none, and vary from WWII to Vietnam to the Korean war to Desert Storm veterans.
“Last year they needed chairs. They gave us a dollar amount and we exceeded it. We bought them the chairs they needed. It’s veterans, helping veterans. It’s one team, one fight,” Daniels said.
Pat Thomas, 69, president of the Dogs of War Chapter of Rockford, came to the show with his wife.
“We planned on having fun today, and for a good cause. And that’s basically what the club is all about. The Marine motorcycle club, we’re all about the same thing, we’re a brotherhood. I really enjoy it,” Thomas said.
Carlos “Wings” Viramontes, 52, said he came to support the Ryan Beaupre Memorial chapter. Homecoming, funerals, medical bills, and house payments are some of the other expenses that his chapter fundraises and helps veterans with.
“As Marine vets, we all help out other vets through fundraisers for causes, whatever they need,” Viramontes said. “These are our brothers and we’re really here to help the cause.”
Piel urges younger veterans to join local veteran groups like the VFW to hold the government accountable for veteran affairs and to give themselves a platform to get involved.
“If I had to urge one thing I would urge these Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to join the VFW, American Legion, Local MC league. They all have lobbying voices too and it helps put pressure on the veteran’s association, Congress, Senate and government in general,” Piehl said.
Throughout the comedic acts, jokes were made between the military branches. At the end of the night Daniels said, it’s about helping veterans of all branches.
“That’s what all this is about, we help all veterans. Doesn’t matter: Army, Navy, Marine Core. None of it matters. Veteran is what matters. We take care of our own,” Daniels said.