Life as I know it

posted Sep 17, 2015, 3:00 PM by Cat Hammes

It's been a long time coming seems like its taking forever. You see there's different components to a prosthetic leg there's a socket then there's the components and last but not least the foot. It's a complication I never thought I would have to learn to deal with and accept but it's the life that was given to me. Frustrating at best and certainly not one of my strong suits is waiting patiently. But I look back today many friends who had to deal with the very same thing that I dealt, because off that fateful day. I can't change the past all I can do is move on with the future. Some days it's a struggle some days it's not. I'm definitely a built in barometer, yes I really can tell the weather. Again not one of the many things I thought I would learn to appreciate. The other thing I've come to find is the older I get the more I realize that each and every one of us go through these different storms in our life some just passing, some roll thru like a tornado leaving a phenomenal aftermath. None of us will escape this life exactly the way we want them to. All of us will experience some life changing events, some will be good some will be bad but truly all of us will experience a change we're not guaranteed a free pass at life. LIFE IS SHORT. We only live it once. Today I choose to be kinder, more compassionate and understanding. I didn't ask for the life of a one legged blonde. I had other things planned. But I can't change it. I have come to understand when I really thought I could not deal with this life, I realize it wasn't a choice, I was built for it.
Just sayin

Gary Wetzel Congressional Medal of Honor

posted Mar 29, 2015, 8:06 AM by Cat Hammes   [ updated Mar 29, 2015, 8:28 AM ]

Live auction, Fashion show for Veterans Outreach of WI Feb 28th SAVE THE DATE

posted Dec 10, 2014, 4:32 PM by Cat Hammes   [ updated Mar 2, 2015, 9:14 AM ]

November 11, 2014 Proko Funeral Home (60th) by 9:00am & follow to Sunset Ridge @1100.

posted Oct 24, 2014, 1:25 PM by Cat Hammes   [ updated Mar 29, 2015, 8:28 AM ]


Name:James Lee Van Bendegom 
Rank/Branch:Staff Sergeant/US Army 
Unit:Company B, 1st Battalion 12th Infantry,  
4th Infantry Division  
Camp Eneri, South Vietnam 

Date of Birth:28 November 1948 
Home of Record:Kenosha, WI
Date of Loss:12 July 1967 
Country of Loss:South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:134026N 1073809E (YA850131) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973:Prisoner of War 
Other Personnel In Incident:Nathan B. Henry; Cordine McMurray; Stanley A. Newell; Martin S. Frank; Richard R. Perricone (released POWs); and James F. Schiele (missing) 



2014 Iron & Ash Ride

posted Jul 18, 2014, 1:02 PM by Cat Hammes

The 2014 Iron & Ash Ride for Warriors was a whirlwind, how fast this Epic adventure came together and how fast 3 weeks went by.

Rogue traveling 1129 miles in one day from FL Dr. Ruth traveling from MN 1300 miles and I traveled about 1200. We joined in San Antonio. Our first stop had us traveling towards the gulf a beautiful ride, (wear lots of sun screen) towards Corpus Christi; long enough to drop our luggage and run to Tobacco World to be met by David & Liz and welcomed into their world of cigars and veterans. There I met a veteran a wealth of medical info. We shared and it became an instant camaraderie with the trauma back ground of patients and caring for them in field. Incredible what there expected to do but not given the degree for their skills when they get back. A Vietnam Veteran still plagued with memories. To Jose the owner born in Cuba but brought to America as a child and his family obtained their citizenship correctly. He enlisted in the Navy and has been on nuclear subs working through the ranks he became a commander. The stories incredible.

Our next stop had us riding up the coast riding up a bridge into the sunrise being met by the site of a fully loaded battleship with jets and helicopters on deck, impressive site. Wishing I had a camera. Heading to Houston we were met with rain about every 20 minutes only to drive for another 20 long enough to dry only to be drenched again. The idea of long sleeve white shirts due to blisters and the rain, ya you get my drift. We arrived into Houston, GPS being cussed out and Rogue driving down, well the grass hill to the ramp. Yep true story. To That Cigar Place met their by and old time friend of Rogue’s, Billy Tinny, listening as they exchanged stories. What an awesome time listening to the history of motorcycle events through the times. Awesome!

Off to Lake Charles to pick up another rider Darryl and meet a longtime friend of Rogue’s. We stopped over to meet Sonny Keeton an iconic pin striper and a man of many talents wonderful wealth of info. His son Waylon a paramedic that races motorcycles cool times shared. Cool cool cool!

The nights spent with little sleep, great laughs, knowledge and stories shared. Money and cigars raised for veterans. Fast paced to this epic adventure.

Baton Rouge coordinator Alaine a soft spoken fireball. Putting together such and awesome time. If you ever in Baton Rouge you gotta try the best Catfish ever at the Cadillac Café’. What an awesome place, the owner Jen funny, inviting and a huge veteran supporter.

I can’t say how wonderful this has been and how privileged I am to have Rogue, Dr. Ruth and Darryl for our added security. Wonderful, incredible adventure and for clarification we are paying our way not your donations and it is worth every penny.

It would seem clearly as quickly as the time has gone by it could not go any faster; in fact it did. Dothan proved what 2 weeks and great minds coming together could make a difference.

Dothan Alabama, never heard of this little town until Rogue said we could stop over on our way to Florida. Well what started as a pit stop turned into, “We want to help.” Which turned into, “We need 2 days.” I could never have imagined what they had in store for us. Berry asked, “Do you know what June 6th is?” I said, “Yes D Day.” So started my interaction over 2 WEEKS, yes 2 weeks with Berry Wardlaw and Bob Mann and the many folks in the back ground. Clearly never challenge a southern gentleman! The icing on the cake is the gantlet thrown by Baton Rouge that they could throw a bigger and better party! Never and they said never challenge the south! SO began the tenacious and I am sure brain storming and group efforts from all over.

Rogue & Darryl escorted us through the traffic state after state. We were supposed to stop in Mobile 4 states later, I asked Rogue, “were we not stopping 2 states ago?” Some serious asphalt ponding miles we road!

 That Friday morning we arrived in Alabama and on our way to Dothan we met up with Bob & Maggie Mann and crew to escort us to Accurate Engineering.

I will say my 32 years of riding and being at as many biker events as I have been to and full knowledge they had only 2 weeks to pull of the Iron & Ash support the ride party I had started; we were floored. Except Rogue of course!

We arrived and were greeted by media from both the newspapers and the local TV station. Whisked in by Bob Mann & introduced to Berry Wardlaw and his gal Gypsy, (Vivian) the flurry of activities had been going on long before we arrived. The donations for auctions piled up and the faces and names of all that came out seemed endless but awesome! I had dreamed of how big this ride could be and it was materializing in front of me. The media glitz well planned, to the local folks who had been busting knuckles to pull this off. Nothing could had prepared me for all that was unfolding and had been pulled together in 2 weeks. Seriously if anyone knows how long a fundraising party takes to coordinate this was surreal!

Accurate Engineering filled with people coming out to show support. Motorcycle clubs showing support, the local folks, people from all over it was incredible.

Then sitting quietly in a recliner watching all the activity was an older gentleman and Gypsy said “Cat there is someone I want you to meet.” The gentlemen of the hour Jack Byers who was on the beach during D Day and lived to tell about it. A soft spoken gentleman & hero many started to gathered around to hear his stories. An honor to have met and shared time with this man. Truly feeling grateful for this journey with meeting such wonderful people!

With that being said Storm the founder of Cigars for Warriors is not a motorcycle rider and has not had the exposure to the biker community and how gracious and generous they could be. I encouraged and highly suggested he come and observe how bikers raise money, show respect and party. So he came along. Though every venue along the way had its own personality there is still something to be said about the bikers, veterans and veteran supporters like myself when they gather something uniquely awesome happens. Storm was about to experience a few days with bikers and see what would unfold within its community.

When I started looking for the ideal non-profit to benefit, it seemed fitting to have Cigars for Warriors be a benefactor.  I love a great cigar and it is the number one requested by our active military. I also had a heart for homeless veterans and their issues are in the for front and back home I have spent countless hours with the homeless veterans and Veteran Outreach for that reason.  So these 2 became a shared benefactor of this Epic adventure.

I can say beyond any doubt I had no clue as to what was going to happen but I can say the vibes were incredibly positive and encouraging. It was a fast and furious staging of events that went of flawlessly. One that clearly any person a part of the planning could stand proud. I was filled in as quickly as possible in between interviews and info and after the media and riding for TV we were whisked off to yet another incredible opportunity.

We were off to have a private tour of the Swedish Match of Dothan, proud supporters of veterans and still based in the USA they were a gracious host. We joined into their break room and met many of the staff who were veterans. We toured the facility and let me tell you if they could put that smell into an air freshener, wow! A clean factory full of wonderful people and smiles. Felicia head of HR had worked with our contacts and secured the private tour but also, 7000 cigars to donate to the troops. It was obvious this community took pride in their work and workers and appreciated all they did. Very refreshing with so much work shipped overseas. As we were getting ready to leave the VP gave me 2 more boxes and a hug and thanked us for what we were doing. I have to admit the White Owl was my first cigars when I was younger so I had to have a picture with the famous owl. The staff were so wonderful and took the opportunity to have photos with us surrounding the famous Owl.

When we left there we head over to meet Ron (also a veteran) owner of Cowboys Dothan who opened up his bar & grill to host the Iron & Ash Crew. He had put together and incredible event giving honor and more meaning and understanding to June 6th.

What a grand evening was in store for us. More media to tell them about the cause. WWII veterans telling us about D Day. Motorcycle Clubs, Military Clubs, local folks and riders from all over. Storm Boen and Aaron Taylor got to talk about how Cigars for Warriors came about. We heard stories from veterans and Ron had put together a video telling the stories and giving tribute and respect to D Day! Bikers from all over came to show support it was a spectacular evening! The owner Ron a soft spoken man but his history as a veteran and supporting veteran activities was becoming very clear. It was a whirlwind of a day and there was more to come!

Saturday started off at Accurate Engineering and meeting more supporters, veterans and media. Getting things ready to go over to Bullets, the owner’s dad is Jack Byers and Jeff had planned a special day with music, food and auctions to raise awareness, money and cigars for veterans.

A lovely lady sought after for her southern chicken & rice with pulled pork had donated the cooking and Bullets bartender provided Xanax in a glass. Wow, if you were board there was a problem! Motorcycle clubs and bikers from afar coming out to show support, from Minnesota to Florida all representing that day. Incredible!

I am sure I have missed something, it was 2 days packed with moment after moment that was heartfelt, touching to funny, to life changing events. A very moving experience for sure.

So needless to say as far as donations, Dothan was the biggest contributor both in cigars and funds raised. It was a hell of a busy 2 days of partying, biker style! Dothan Alabama rocks. Being surrounded by veterans, motorcycles and cigars is clearly right up my alley! But it’s not over so stay tuned!!!!!!

We started of Sunday off to Cigar Hustlers in Deltona FL 350 miles from Dothan for the Iron & Ash event. Storm & Aaron from Cigars for Warriors and Rick Beasley the event coordinator for Florida met us there. Rick Beasley a fireman & veteran a truly wonderful man with a hug heart. A veteran lover like me has worked with Cigars for Warriors for 2 years now. What most people don’t know is these coordinators do these events on their own dime. They support these and assist with things and most of them the average person just trying to get by financially with not huge amounts to support their efforts. This is the type of folks I so enjoy and not that if you have money and help that it is not important but I’m talking about going without so you can help someone else, giving even when it hurts sometimes.

Monday was a hammer down and 728 miles into Midlothian VA Winston Humidor. We left early and had a deadline to be there between 4 & 6 and we arrived at 4:30. Met by Tim Morris who set up both events in VA. The owner Rosanne had a spread of homemade goodies, awesome BBQ and the owner of Quesada with their 40th anniversary cigar. A gentle lovely soul. His family had been in the cigar business 140 years. He had sold out of his anniversary cigar but he had a couple tucked away that he kept for us. A fun evening met up with some of the Booze fighters MC came out to show support. The local BMW club and HOG members were there it was truly a lovely evening at this quant cigar store.

Wednesday brought us into The Cigar Palace a female owned cigar store the owner Sawsan Mahdi, born in Iraq, I must say intrigued my curiosity. We arrived to be met by this beautiful woman coming out as soon as she heard the bikes. Hugs and welcoming us to her store. Jason her manager as well came out. We were invited in to share food, drinks and cigars with a woman, born in Iraq who avidly supports this country’s military and Cigars for Warriors. A wonderful fun filled evening. The Pipe Hitters MC came out to show support, a body guard for pentagon, the locals were wonderful. Tim again met us there as well as the Phantom Zev Kaminetsky of Drew Estates a funny guy with great tattoos. A soft hearted man sharing the plight of his brother and the need for an upcoming amputation. It was a fun, heartwarming evening share amongst the cigar lovers. Very much enjoyed this stop!

So by Friday & Saturday day 19 & 20 of being on the road, I was ready for anything! The riding had been fast and furious to say the least so rolling into the Big Mountain Run put on by Cycle Source I was hoping for a little down time. We started the day off layered up in rain gear and dodging rain but it was left behind as we headed into the mountains of West Virginia. The twists and turns insanely beautiful views in every direction. We had to stop and put our security in the back as he is throttle full out on the turns so keeping up was work and after that many days in the saddle, Darryl love ya but really??? LOL.

The roads leading through beautiful hill sides, drop off cliffs, where do I find the next gas station, oh crap I’m on reserve. To pulling over into a volunteer fire station to remove layers looking around to see if rest room a couple older gentlemen pull in to say hello. We talked for a while and learned the one man’s daughter had recently lost her leg in an accident and wanted to ride again, so we exchanged info.

The first person I meet as we arrive at the Big Mountain Run is Zach, a Marine, cool guy. We were walking around with Zach and he brought us over to the Mobile Vet Center. One of them an avid cigar lover who shared what the program was all about. As we toured its inner sanctum he told us there where 70 of these mobile centers and they were commissioned to visit every state and every county to reach out to every vet within a year. The do on site referrals, give information to what is available a great resource.

We met up with Chris Callen and exchanged hugs. There was so many laid back things happening if you were not having fun, you have a problem. I took a break to sit in the barn on a picnic table and soon was joined by others, shared cigars with them and we sat around talking about what I was doing traveling all over the country and why. Talked about who Cigars for Warriors was and Veterans Outreach was and what they do. It is amazing what can be shared over the table and a cigar. It is a relaxing time enjoying the company, the scenery and people. I was texting home to my old man telling him we need to come to this event together next year and Chris caught it on video and no not staged

Saturday comes and it is bright and sunny we had back for more fun at the BMR. The day was filled with meeting cool peeps, meeting old friends, good times, and games. The barrel roll, the wiener bite, the slow ride and burn outs of course. Met a few other one legged riders one dude had his Road King modified so he road without his leg, nope not a trike. He said it might not look fancy but it works. It sure did and he could ride! Another dude having his 75 thousand dollar knee pin stripped. It was cool seeing those that still ride and in one spot. Sounds strange but some will get it. It was another comradery.

I met so many people, Nate from Harlot Cycles retro, mixed metals, just bad ass stuff. Bobby from Indian Larry, like I so know I am missing names but had a blast for sure. The single person truthfully that touched me that day, Zach. As far as events go, this is a don’t miss, it is old school, having fun, being whoever your are and loving it! Thanks Chris for having us.

It was an amazing adventure, the places each had its own personality its own flare of who to do things. I love it when people come together for a cause. The crew I started with each bringing to the table a different personality, a uniqueness all their own. We traveled thousands of miles of asphalt, through about 23 states, 3 weeks on the road to make this happen. Thousands of cigars raised and thousands of dollars raised as well for both Cigars for Warriors and Veterans Outreach. It was a life changing event with incredible memories made, met old friends and made new ones! I cannot thank Rogue, Dr. Ruth and Darryl who joined in enough for believing in me and coming along! Life is good actually it is great! Live, love, laugh, ride and smoke a great cigar!



Veterans Outreach Of WI

posted Jun 11, 2014, 11:09 AM by Cat Hammes   [ updated Mar 29, 2015, 8:35 AM ]

They are in need of household items and those willing to help pick up and drop off.

Iron & Ash Ready to role

posted May 19, 2014, 6:41 AM by Cat Hammes   [ updated Mar 29, 2015, 8:37 AM ]

Getting ready for an epic cross country ride to benefit veterans. Cigars for Warriors and Veterans Outreach of WI


posted May 15, 2014, 5:03 PM by Cat Hammes   [ updated Mar 29, 2015, 8:19 AM ]


posted May 13, 2014, 10:40 AM by Cat Hammes   [ updated Mar 2, 2015, 9:17 AM ]

Why I do what I do

posted May 3, 2014, 9:01 AM by Cat Hammes   [ updated Mar 29, 2015, 8:29 AM ]

Hi, for those of you who do not know me I am Cat known the One Legged Blonde.

Many of you know I am extremely involved with veterans. I am currently working on two projects at the same time. I have decided the best way to raise funds for both programs is a cross country motorcycle ride. I will be attending events and various gatherings planned Cigars for Warriors Event coordinators, Cigar shops themselves and personal friends of the crew. I will explain more about these charities and my involvement, but first want to back up and tell you my life's events that brought me to this point, and led me to my passion and work for veteran outreach.

In 2006 I was seriously injured almost killed on my motorcycle. The accident caused traumatic brain injury, amputation of my left leg, and other injuries I’m still dealing with today. At the time of the accident, I had a very good career in nursing, I owned a cigar shop, I had a large Victorian home in the suburbs, and of course all the toys that come along with a six-figure income.

In the blink of an eye it was all gone.... the house, the career, the cigar shop, a divorce, and a loss of many friends and more. During this period of my life, I was taken to visit and volunteered my time at a veteran's homeless shelter. I was amazed by all of their stories. I was amazed at their personal sacrifices and the huge price they paid.....for me, to secure and protect my freedom. Being with these veterans affected me to such a degree, that it drove me to recover, getting on with my life, so I could commit to what I love....helping those who have secured my freedom and liberties. I’ve been passionately involved with veteran outreach ever since.

I found out about Cigars for Warriors 3 years ago. It is an international nonprofit organization that sends premium cigars and products to our active military. After much research and liking what they did.... I really felt it would be a good fit for me to get involved raising funds and work with this organization. I know how important a good cigar can be to those who are missing many of the comforts of home. Cigars are sent to the soldiers in many foreign places, offering a little respite and comfort. After owning my own shop, I can put my knowledge to good work and help those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

The other organization I have linked with is Veterans Outreach, also a non-profit 501c3. 

Our mission is to help veterans strive for normalcy in life by helping them furnish their new found homes while providing additional assistance as needed. We help the newly placed, previously homeless veterans make a home by providing household goods down to the towels, silverware and groceries. 100% of our funds are used to keep this warehouse of hope open. I have donated countless hours of time helping them. We even helped a homeless veteran who refused housing if his dog could not come. The old dog needed veterinarian care, and we found a vet to donate his time...getting the dog and owner back on track. The dog was this man's only family. 

I don’t just do veteran outreach once a year. I live it.  I don’t say this to pat myself on the back. I do it because they helped a broken shattered civilian get her life back and fill it full of meaning. I cannot pay it forward enough. I may hate politics and wars but I love our warriors!

The funds I am trying to raise would help execute my hopes, dreams and years of planning. Yes it is a long ride with many events along the way. The schedule has meet and greets, parties, events.....but the purpose at each stop remains the same. I am not interested in fame, but I know it takes the right people, the right media and the right places to make things happen. So with that being said, I hope to collect cigars, raise money, give honor and show respect for our country's veterans.

I have carefully chosen a crew of 2 others. John Rouge is a dear friend and an icon in motorcycle journalism. Dr. Ruth is my very capable road captain and another dear friend who will keep me on track! Both are true veteran supporters. The funds we raise will be for our overhead, spending very modestly and frugally, and for my chosen two project charities; Cigars for Warriors, and Veteran's Outreach. 

I would appreciate any participation, donations and ideas along the way. Please check the schedule updates coming daily and come see us, ride with us, and work with us. If you have gas cards or hotel points, we can use these as well. This is my mission, and I would love your help.

You can make donations with PayPal

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