Brothers equal family

Dudley McNutt, center, and other members of the Brothers in Arms North Puget Sound chapter lend a hand at the Interfaith Coalition of Whidbey Island’s food drive in January. Photo courtesy of Laurell Brault

With a name like “Brothers in Arms,” it comes as no surprise that Dudley McNutt, a four-year member of the motorcycle club, says the group’s motto can be summed up in one word: family.

“The national organization has been in existence about 10 years, and our local chapter, Brothers in Arms North Puget Sound, has been around for nearly six,” said McNutt. Composed of active duty and retired veterans from all branches of the military and reserves, club members devote their energy and talents to both armed service members and their families, and the community at large.

The founders of Brothers in Arms sought to join two concepts: dedication to the armed forces who protect the United States and a camaraderie born of a shared love of motorcycle riding. So far, it’s proven to be a winning combination.

“Simply put, it combines outreach to veterans with our love for riding,” McNutt said. “Our priority is addressing the needs of veterans, yet quite often in the process of doing that, we’ll find ourselves reaching out to the community right here in Oak Harbor.”

A good example of that is January’s Interfaith Coalition of Whidbey Island-sponsored “Feed the Need” food drive to benefit the North Whidbey Help House. Several members of Brothers in Arms were on hand to help collect nearly 6,000 pounds of food donations. It marked the fourth year the organization has participated in the food drive, said McNutt.

“Our members do events for the Oak Harbor Boys and Girls club, which, in turn, does a lot for local military families here,” he said.

“We’re also the only motorcycle club that’s currently involved in Relay for Life,” said McNutt, referring to the Whidbey Island’s largest cancer fundraiser, usually slated for June.

One special type of outreach that gives them probably as much fulfillment as the recipients, are the motorcycle runs they make to Seattle VA, to visit hospitalized veterans.

“Often, these are folks who also share our interest in motorcycles,” said McNutt. “We end up chatting with them about the latest innovations. Before you know it, we’ve all had our moods boosted by talking about a pastime that’s mutually enjoyable to everyone.”

Local parades, such as Coupeville’s Memorial Day parade and Oak Harbor’s Holland Happening parade have featured Brothers in Arms riders for a number of years. Several members participate in Patriot Guard Rider events as well, said McNutt. The group will also participate in Oak Harbor’s first Veterans Day parade in November.

Right now, Brothers in Arms North Puget Sound doesn’t have a set meeting location, he said.

“We move the times and locations of our meetings around to fit the needs of our members,” said McNutt.

And while some of the projects they’ve undertaken are becoming yearly events, the group is mobile enough to act quickly, once new opportunities arise.

“At times, it’s very impromptu,” said McNutt. “Someone hears about an upcoming event, and says, ‘Hey, let’s try to get in on this,’” he said. “In fact, that’s how we heard about a brand new organization called ‘Pets for Vets,’ that seeks to match companion animals with veterans.”

McNutt says their June fundraiser “Pets for Vets Poker Run,” will raise funds for that group. The effort is similar to one they participated in to raise funds for service dogs for police officers.

It turns out, he said, “That a lot of us happen to be pet lovers, too.”