Veteran bikers keen to promote caring side
Veteran MC members Webby, Stone and Woody. Picture: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

While a name like Cypress Cottage does not exactly fit the tough image of its bike-loving proprietors, the Veterans Motorcycle Club of WA is more concerned with helping fellow veterans in their time of need.

Run by the club for more than 10 years, the Maylands house provides low-cost, emergency and short-stay accommodation for any former serviceman who requires it.

Former club president and Vietnam veteran John "Stone" Lewis said most of the club's fundraising efforts were focused on supporting the cottage.

"Often these are guys who have nowhere to go, it's a short-term stay, but we take care of them," he said.

"We're going through a complete refit at the moment, so that will mean handing over $6000-$7000 in the next couple of weeks."

He said it was the bond shared by all veterans that led the club to take over running the cottage from the Returned and Services League.

"Looking after people is what we're trying to do," Mr Lewis said. "We're always being approached by people. A bloke turned up the other day, he had served in Vietnam and has been having a real tough time of it lately."

Founded in 1993, the club's membership was originally restricted to Vietnam veterans, but it opened its doors to all exservicemen in 2000, the first of the club's Australian branches to do so.

"There is only one or two (Vietnam veterans) left in the club, so we would have wound up shutting down if we didn't grab the opportunity," Mr Lewis said.

"The Eastern States clubs are starting to realise that now and are moving in the same direction."

The club prides itself on staying on the right side of the law, is run with military discipline and shuns illegal behaviour.

But as a "back patch" club, Mr Lewis concedes the public sees a link between them and the State's many outlaw bikie gangs.

"We have a lot of brothers and friends in other clubs but what they choose to do is their business," he said.

"Being a charitable organisation ourselves, we have to be totally legitimate."

The club will throw open the doors of its Nollamara clubhouse, which shares premises with the local RSL, on Anzac Day.

"It's a chance to catch up with all the other vets - we're a home for all of them to come," Mr Lewis said. "Anyone can come here and everybody's welcome."

Club members and navy veterans Webby and Woody said all veterans shared an unspoken bond.

"It's completely different to sitting next to a bloke at a 9-5 job," Webby said. "I've been out for 12 years and Anzac Day just didn't fit for me at first, but here it's military style with military mates."

The West Australian

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