Veterans and Harley-Davidson go together like… well, like veterans and Harley-Davidson.
For me, the decision on what bike to buy was easy (and shallow) — and based almost entirely on how incredible the black denim 2011 Fat Boy Lo looked.
And while Harley-Davidson has many programs to help veterans and active duty military — that certainly wasn’t the driving force behind my decision.
I mean, just look at this beautiful beast: (To avoid any confusion, I mean the bike below)
To be frank, my appreciation for the H-D culture and their military initiatives came after I bought my bike.
But I’m just one veteran, and as we all know, we are not a monolith. So I started wondering: Is it the product, the history or what H-D does for the military/veteran community that draws so many of us to the saddle of a Harley?
I decided to reach out to my fellow hog-riding vets from across the country to find out:
Larry Bothner, USAF ’79-’89 — Riding since 1976
“Riding a Harley is like being part of a brotherhood just like the military. Harley riders have the biggest hearts and are always supporting veterans or their community. Riding a Harley helps with the PTSD, also it’s good for the soul.”
Shane Kruchten, USMC ’02-’05 — Riding since 1998
“I chose Harley and stand by Harley-Davidson because it is America. To me it symbolizes the American Dream and passion to be better than yourself and live free at all times. Being born in Milwaukee probably helps that as well, but I always have been, and will be, Harley-Davidson! I’ve never ridden anything else, never owned anything else and I’m OK with that. I’d rather push my Harley than ride a foreign bike.”
Joel Doutrich, USN ’09-’13 — Riding since 2009
“I think we choose to ride Harley’s because, let’s be honest, no one has power like the United States and that’s how we like our bikes. American muscle!”
Nichole Alred, USA ’01-’07 — Riding since 2008
“One of my husband’s soldiers had passed — shot and killed by a sniper in Iraq. When I looked him up, all I could find were articles on the Westboro Baptist Church and how they were going to protest at his funeral. I then stumbled upon the Patriot Guard Riders.
I wanted to be a part of it so I encouraged my husband to get a motorcycle. We rode with the Patriot Guard, and after two years of riding bitch, I wanted my own. I had a 105th anniversary Harley. My husband and I knew there was nothing but Harley out there for us.
It’s heavy, it’s dependable and it’s an American icon. My husband had the 105th anniversary Fatboy. My car got totaled and I had to trade my bike in as a down payment on a car. One of the biggest regrets I have.”
Larry Carmon, USMC ’75-’03 — Riding since the late 1970s
“I always wanted a Harley. In 2008, my wife (Sylvia) and I were watching Rolling Thunder in Washington, D.C. and decided without delay: It was time to get a Harley so I could participate in this event. She gave the go-ahead and I sprinted out and bought my first one, a 2004 Heritage Softail Classic. I have since moved to a 2012 Road King Classic. My wife has a 2014 Heritage Softail Classic and my oldest daughter (Christina Marie) rides a 2016 Street Glide.
We ride Harley’s because they are a comfortable ride. In fact, my wife and I rode from Virginia to Sturgis, SD, in 2015, approximately 5000 miles and 12 states, it was magnificent, especially riding through the Badlands. My daughter and I went to Daytona the following year with the same results. As I said, we find the Harley an extremely comfortable ride and would not have it any other way. Semper Fi!”
Tim Wearing, USN ’00-present — Riding since 1997
“I chose a Harley because A) I’m from Wisconsin, so Harley’s are the main thing you see on the streets (not even 2 weeks ago, there were 134 that rode past my mom’s farm). B) They’re iconic American motorcycles. Everyone wants one. When I was 6, I told my grandpa I wanted a whole back tattoo of death riding a chopped out Harley on the highway to hell.”
Bob Brock, USAF ’71-’76 — Riding since 1971
“Truthfully, I always wanted an H-D. Great American Machine and all that… but the price stopped me. When I finally did get one, it was for the Touring aspect of it. I traded in a Honda VTX-1800 (a cruiser) for an Electroglide Ultra Classic, because my wife couldn’t comfortably ride on the VTX.
I looked at the Gold Wing and a few others, and when I saw this one was available, I grabbed it. I’ve been very happy with it, had it for five years now and it’s a very good ride – has given me almost no problems. The wife has been very happy riding on the back.”
Mickey Strand, USN ’85-’09 — Riding since 2002
“My dad introduced me to riding. He used to ride to work any day the roads were passable. I chose to ride a Harley because I love the look, the style and the dependability of it. I ride a Heritage Soft tail and its in my opinion the quintessential ‘Harley Davidson’ looking road bike.”
Ray Buckley, USA ’10-’15 — Riding since 2007
“My legal first name is Harley… my mom and dad had a pair of Dynas when I was born. I had a couple of sport bikes, I enjoyed riding but wasn’t 100% satisfied, so I got a used ’06 Deuce. It’s been thru a major transformation, but I love it!
My wife and I took it on our first date. My mechanic used to ride with my dad back in his hay day. It’s really cool to get those two old guys together and listen to their stories. Owning and riding a Harley for me is about more than the bike. It’s the whole experience of making memories. Riding is a stress reliever for me these days, it’s a way to clear my head and squeeze a little bit of freedom into my hectic schedule.”
Raymond Bowers, USN ’08-’15 — Riding since 1998
“A friend of mine purchased a Harley this spring. He knew that I liked to ride and offered to let me borrow it.
After taking it for a ride, I was hooked.
There is a special brotherhood between those that have served in the military and the same is true, albeit in a different capacity, among motorcyclists and even more so among those that ride Harley’s.
It’s a lot like having served in the same branch. It’s more than a brand, it is a feeling of buying American and sharing in success of an ageless American company.”
Jack Walker, USN ’96-’17 — Riding since 1973
“Their choppers were the best thing from the ’60s on. By the way, I’m on my 14th Harley now.”