Bikers rev it up for veterans

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published September 24, 2014

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Money raised from the Sept. 13 Punishers Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club fundraiser will benefit Eastpointe resident and U.S. Army veteran Joe Hayton.

WARREN — Their hearts are as big as their Harleys.

In March of this year, local police officers, firefighters and military veterans who own their own motorcycles formed a Michigan chapter of the international Punishers Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club. Their goal: to assist disabled veterans.

“We’ve got 15-18 veterans we’re looking at. They’re all having a hard time getting benefits,” club Vice President Kevin “Old Syde” Byrnes said. “Where would we be without them?”

On Sept. 13, the club’s members — and their spouses, families and friends — gathered at their Warren clubhouse for a fundraiser to benefit U.S. Army veteran Joe Hayton.

“We looked at what he needs and why he needs it,” said Byrnes, employed with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department. “We’re a family club. This is what we like to do.”

Hayton, 81, was caught off guard with the Punishers generosity.

“I was totally surprised,” said the Eastpointe resident, who stopped by the fundraiser unaware it was for him. “Nobody said anything to me about this. I didn’t know until 10 or 15 minutes after I got here.”

Admission was $8 per person, with children younger than 6 free of charge. The benefit included a baked potato bar with various toppings, along with fruit, drinks, dessert and raffles. Club members supplied food for the event and set everything up in a party-like atmosphere.

Hayton said money raised will help pay for medication for him and his wife, Josephine. He served in the military from 1954-56. Hayton — whose stint began in Fort Knox, Kentucky — still remembers his draft number.

“After I got through all my training, they sent me to a warehouse. I got pneumonia during training,” he said.

Hayton was proud to serve his country, and he eventually was relocated to Alaska, where he helped administer first aid with medical teams. After two years, he left the military.

“I had a choice to re-enlist. I decided not to,” Hayton said. Romance was primarily the reason. “I was in love with a beautiful woman out here.”

Since leaving the service, Hayton worked as a truck driver. He has four children and eight grandchildren. Sons David and Keith Hayton were at the fundraiser, as were daughters-in-law Jenny and Michelle Hayton. Now that he has received from the Punishers, Hayton would like to give back.

“I offered my help in the future to the club ... if they want to do something for someone else here,” the veteran said.

Club member Ross “Wolf” Nunn, of Eastpointe, was glad to give Hayton a hand.

“We really wanted to help him out,” said Nunn, a security officer who attended the fundraiser with his wife, Rebecca “Kitty” Nunn. “It’s very good to help veterans, especially when they’re down on their luck.”

The club held a fundraiser in June to help another veteran. Owning a motorcycle is a requirement for joining the club, as is working in law enforcement, emergency medical service, firefighting or serving in the military. Byrnes said the time the Punishers spend together promotes camaraderie.

“You feel like you belong,” said Mike “Miyagi” Colangelo, of Clinton Township, who serves as the club’s treasurer. “Everyone gets a say-so in what’s going on. It’s a family.”

That’s especially true when collectively riding the open road.

“We try to ride as much as possible in the summertime,” Ross Nunn said. “It’s never really about the destination or where we go. For me, it’s about the ride with my brothers.”

For more information on the Michigan Chapter of the Punishers Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, visit www.punisherslemcmotorcity.com.

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