Motorcycle club (good guys contrary to the name) offers vets a positive pastime
By Dwight Hobbes
Mustafa Nelson is a firm believer in helping others. He’s especially passionate, though, about trying to do for veterans of our armed forces what he feels should be done but which the Veterans Admiration has miserably failed to do.
“There’s no reason,” he emphatically states, “for vets to be homeless on the street after they have gone and fought for their country.” In this interest, he works in Minneapolis with the Virginia-based nonprofit National Military Support Fund (www.usnmsf.org), which emailed the MSR a statement reading, “Approximately 1,650 individuals a day are released from state or federal custody. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, four million offenders will be under community supervision and a third of them are veterans.”
Disturbing as this is, it’s not difficult to fathom. You come back from war with some of the problems soldiers traditionally face, and winding up on the wrong side of the law is not a stretch at all. “These offenders are likely to struggle with substance abuse, lack of adequate education and job skills, limited housing options, and mental health issues such a PTSD. NMSF and its associates specialize in educating, training and providing food,” they said in their emailed response.
By extension, Nelson takes it upon himself to combine his desire to help others with his love of motorcycle riding. In 2005, he founded the bike club Bad Company, M.C., which, contrary to its name, is about some of the good guys. “What the biker world has become today is pretty crazy.” Clubs can, he points out, let the wrong people in by mistake. “You let people in who are about negative activities and they hide in your club. There are a set of rules people are supposed to go by when you get into a club situation — rules of conduct and such. They’ve been broken because a lot of [clubs] want to get numbers up, as many people in the club as possible.”
This can lead to poor screening and, accordingly, a lack of quality in members. “Rapists, gangbangers, could be murderers for all we know. They get in the club and they hide behind the organization.”
He takes pains to point out, “I have separated myself from that negativity. [Bad Company] does outreach to meet the goals of NMSF. Veterans get out of prison and have nowhere to go. I want to help them out as much as possible.”
It saddens him to reflect on how too many vets are treated. “It seems the system has said, ‘Forget you’ to vets. I have a brother right now [who] sleeps in a van because the [VA], they don’t want to help him. I’ve spoken to several veterans that are homeless who are saying the administration [overcharges] them for medication.
“There’s no reason for it. And there is no reason anybody should be without a home, but especially veterans who fought for this country. Why should they come home and be treated [as] less of a human being? That just hurts me. Deeply. I want to be able to do something positive and make a change.”
The same spirit moved him to start Bad Company. “I’ve had a love of riding since age 15. And I’ve had family around me who ride. I wanted to start something positive with a group of friends.” He acknowledges, “There’s good clubs [and] there’s idiots, like with anything else.”
While being moved to help others, Nelson doesn’t lose sight of the fact that, in this precarious economy, he has to help himself as well. He’s in the bodyguard-security services field (while taking extensive training in emergency management, i.e. skills to work in disaster settings) and finds he has to be careful about stretching a buck to make ends meet.
At 53, now divorced, he looks back on his marriage and says, “Now I understand why my wife used to get mad when we’d go to the market and I would just grab things and throw them in the shopping cart. She was keeping an eye out on how to save by using coupons.”
He laughs, “I should have caught on then. I do that now, and will go to the food shelf.” He adds with a self-effacing smile, “You learn after you become single.”
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
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