Motorcyclists with a mission Leathernecks share Marine history and good work
By Rebecca Correa
Staff writer

SALEM — John Fitzgerald, 54, began riding motorcycles more than 30 years ago, but it wasn't until he saw the Leathernecks patch that he learned about a motorcycle group he wanted to join.

The patch includes the Marine Corps battle streamers and is worn by regular members of the Leathernecks motorcycle club. The Leathernecks is an international organization for active duty and former Marines. There are more than 25 active chapters, including one in Great Britain.

The group doesn't require dues, although it is a nonprofit organization that strives to raise money. It's not a veterans club either, although veterans are welcome. And the group is not about showing off, although members do like to ride for fun, Fitzgerald said.

"There are plenty of riding groups and motorcycle clubs that ride for the fun of it, which is very important," Fitzgerald said. "But this group stood for something. It was more. They were real."

Group members meet monthly, but also fundraise and make their presence known several times a month. On the Fourth of July, they will be part of a remembrance ceremony at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.

And they're constantly fundraising for state veterans programs and funding projects related to prisoners of war.

Most recently, the members have tried to help those who share a bond with them, but might be less fortunate: members of the Marine Corps returning to New Hampshire from war zones, most recently from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"A lot of these people are coming back and they're not all coming back right," Fitzgerald said. "We want to do what we can for them."

Today, Fitzgerald is the president of the New Hampshire chapter, which is undergoing changes.

The New Hampshire chapter started in 2001, but disbanded for a short period. Three years ago, it started up again and, more recently, Fitzgerald became the club's president.

There are about 20 active members, including former Marines from Hampstead and Derry. Members range in age from young Marines who just returned from combat to Vietnam veterans.

He said the group is looking to expand, to find more members to share in their monthly motorcycle rides, and who will help them fundraise.

The group is cautious in the projects it backs and the members it accepts. There's a probationary period, usually of about three months, where they get to know the new member before they earn their patch.

"We're looking for somebody to fall into what we do, not just to wear the patch on the vest," Fitzgerald said. "It's not to look cool, it's believing what we stand for."

For more information on joining or donating to the club, visit: