The Rough Riders are an intimidating bunch. You'll probably be tempted to stay clear when the biker brothers cruise side by side down the streets of San Diego on their Harleys.
They go by street names like Nuke, 12 Gauge, Kajun and Stand Up. Tattoos blanket their arms, silver revolvers adorn their bike hubs, and dark sunglasses hide what you can only imagine is a menacing glare.
"There's nothing better than sitting on a Harley Davidson and riding down the road," Kajun says, “it's a great feeling to be on two wheels to be able to feel the wind in your face, to be out with your brothers, hanging out having a good time."
But the Rough Riders motorcycle club has a not-so-rough side most people will never see. They’re made up mostly of active duty or retired military. And when they're out on a ride, their minds are often out with their comrades, serving overseas. After all, that's where their hearts really are. Their mission is to help other veterans.
Kajun is an active duty Marine who has deployed to Afghanistan once, and Iraq three times.
"Everything we do is about raising money for veterans’ causes, supporting veterans’ causes," Kajun explains.
"Most people probably see the Harleys and our rough exterior and just think we're a bunch of bikers. But all of us, me and my fellow brothers in the organization, have devoted a lot of time and our own money to support these causes," adds 12 Gauge, who is also an active duty Marine and has served in Iraq.
"In this day and age, our military is a voluntary military. These people stepped up to the bat when the nation needed them. So we need to take care of them," says 12 Gauge.
Their efforts raise thousands of dollars for programs that serve wounded warriors. The funds make it possible to grant scholarships to women who’ve lost their husbands to combat, or to grant wishes to injured service members who want to start their own business, attend the Super Bowl or live out some other dream.
The next Rough Rider charity event is the 11th Annual Poker Ride on Saturday, April 25th. All of the proceeds will go to the "Hope for the Warriors." The organization helps service members returning from overseas, with programs that include granting wishes to wounded warriors and providing scholarships for their spouses.