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The brass marker on the deck of the USS Missouri marking the spot of the signing of the surrender of Japan that ended WWII

The brass marker on the deck of the USS Missouri marking the spot of the signing of the surrender of Japan that ended WWII

Monday is Memorial Day, a day we remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of rememberance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on Union and Confederate Soldiers graves in Arlington National Cemetery. Ever since, Americans have set aside a day in May to observe Memorial Day and pay tribute and honor those who died in defense of our nation.

For many of us it’s a holiday and in between the BBQ’s and spending time with family and friends, it’s important that we take a moment to pause and remember our fallen heroes.

Photo taken by author on the USS Missouri.

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It’s been a disturbing week.

Earlier in the week I watched a program on the History Channel – 102 Minutes That Changed America.   It was video taken from numerous vantage points in NYC spliced together to provide a minute-by-minute recant of the events on September 11, 2001.  Major shout-out to History Channel for running it without the onslaught of a bunch of inappropriate commercials!

Like many of you I remember exactly where and what I was doing on September 11th and the gamut of emotions I went through.  While watching the History Channel replay the events I started to reflect about the eleven years since 9/11 and how much has changed.

Ugly barriers went up around public facilities not to mention how navigating airports has become a new kind of nightmare.  The American lexicon included new words like: Taliban, al-Qaida, extremism, anthrax, axis of evil and ground zero.  There was the federalization of airport security, enhanced border security, Patriot Act and domestic spying through the Presidents Surveillance Program (PSP) and FISA amendments.  You can view a number of law changes HERE.

1st Sgt. Troy Wood

Even more disturbing is how the post 9/11 glow of “lets-all-get-along” has faded.  Nothing has deteriorated faster than the political discourse.  The culpability extends to both parties.  The bitter and divisive assaults have not lifted up the nation in a more principled and honorable direction.  One side shouting that we have a foreign-born, socialist, anti-colonialist, Kenyan-like Muslim who pals around with people bent on destroying the economy through Obamacare.  The other side shouting about an “obstruct and exploit” strategy… sort of a “scorched earth” mentality to win at all costs.  It’s really the same old antics to manipulate the public dialog, rather than elevate it.

Then there was the attack in Libya which killed J. Christopher Stevens the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americas by protesters angry about an American “film” – “The Innocence of the Muslims” – which they deemed hurt their religious feelings and justified murder.  Piling on were the flag burning attacks in Yemen and the U.S. embassy in Egypt.

But, I’ve digressed…

What I wanted to write about is how living in Portland, OR isn’t like living in a military town, where everyone is either a service member or is related to one.  Here in “P-town” we’re all caught up in our own little latte worlds.  And having lived in both types of communities I think it’s somewhat easier for folks in Oregon to be complacent and forget about the war.  Meanwhile service members continue to render salutes and follow orders into fierce battles in Afghanistan… Sure there is ample room for debate about how and why America got to where it is today, but I cringe at the thought that it’s getting harder to remember a time when we haven’t been at war.

Troy Wood (L), James (R)

And speaking of the war, I wanted to provide a shout-out to a couple soldiers, who went under-appreciated each day of their lives while serving in the conflicts.

One of my riding buddies (James) served in Baghdad, Iraq during the onset of the war.  I remember receiving an email from his family with a photograph of him sitting in a boat on the Tigris River.  I posted it up in my work cube.  It made me feel connected and the photograph served to remind me of the harsh conditions he lived and I when I looked at it I would hope for a safe return.  One of his best friends was 1st Sgt. Troy Wood.  They served together in Iraq as combat engineers and bridge builders, but also spent time patrolling the rivers.  It was dangerous and difficult work.  And, I’m fairly certain they didn’t join the military to bow and kowtow to everyone on earth who hates us.

Sadly, I learned this week that Troy passed away as a result of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.  I didn’t know Troy, but as a 20 year Army veteran and dear friend of James, I guarantee you he was a good and generous man.  I’m deeply sorry for your loss James.

During this 11th anniversary week, I suggest that we not only honor the lives lost on 9/11, but that we honor the men and women that have and continue to serve our country – they go under-appreciated each day of their lives.

Photos courtesy of Jake Wood.  Cartoon courtesy of Rick McKee.

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“Redux” is often used in literature and film with the meaning of “brought back or restored.”

This time it applies to a motorcycle ride which took place back in 2008 under some clouds of controversy.  I won’t bore you with details of the past because it’s been 3+ years since that ride which had record attendance on a bright sunny fall day in the northwest.

Just mark your calendar as the Free The Colors ride is being resurrected from the ride “tool box” and planned for April 15th.

The ride is not about rules of engagement.  Rather it’s about a journey and it seems to me that the best trips in life invariably involve some detours and improvisation to smooth out the bumps in the road.  Sometimes when we’re lucky, they also involve motorcycles and meeting new friends.

And speaking of friends, the Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association (OVMA) will be celebrating 22 years of service to Veterans, their families and the Community on Saturday, April 14th. The current State President, Stefan Dudley ‘Taz’ (HDE, Bend area), asked that the West Valley Chapter plan and run the Free The Colors ride on Sunday April 15, which will result in a full weekend for OVMA.

The ride route (see map) will start out at 12 noon (sharp) from the VFW Post #584 on 1469 Timber St, SE, Albany.  From there they will be going to Lebanon, visiting the site where a new Veterans Home will be built. Then on to Scio, visiting a Veterans Memorial, then to Jefferson, from there to I-5 N, they will be stopping at Rest Lawn Cemetery in W. Salem, (OVMA has a Memorial there), and from there to the Independence Veterans Memorial.  They plan to fit in a lunch and/or rest stop somewhere on the ride, and from there back to 99W down to Albany, and to the Legion.

There will also be a breakfast at the VFW from 9-11:45am

Hear that sound?  It’s time to ride and let the sun shine in on April 15th!

Poster photo and map courtesy of OVMA

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Not the “Captain” you were thinking.

It’s called product placement and I’ve blogged about it previously HERE and HERE.  It’s all about socializing Harley-Davidson on the big screen.

Sure we know that Harley-Davison has used product placement in the past, but these days it’s up to the Davie Brown Entertainment Team to make sure it’s a core part of a marketing push into film/entertainment.  And as we’re told countless times each night on TV commercials… entertainment can sensationalize the excitement and thrill of riding a motorcycle to the point of moving people to the dealers to check it out, right?

Disregard that only 3% of the U.S. consumers own a motorcycle.  It’s the other 15-20 million individuals in the U.S. being targeted and the hope is to generate a desire to buy one. But, I’ve gotten way ahead of myself…

This bit all started at the outset of WWII, where the U.S. Government gave H-D an assignment.  Design a motorcycle that could withstand desert conditions. You see the Germans were already using a desert-ready BMW motorcycle in the North African campaign and we didn’t really have anything to respond.

Harley-Davidson’s response was the 1942 XA.  It had horizontally-opposed flat twin engine (750), a shaft final drive a hand operated clutch with foot-operated shifter and a “wet-sump” design circulated oil from the pan underneath the engine, protecting the oil from sand.  It also had heavy-cleated tires to provide traction against shifting terrain.  The contract was cancelled early due to war combat moving out of North Africa and only about a thousand XA’s were ever built.

It was also in about the same timeframe, during and around World War II that the Model WLA was produced to U.S. Army specifications.  Called the 45 solo type, due to its 45 cubic inches (740 cc) engine and single-rider design. The same engine, in a slightly lower state of tune, also powered the three-wheeled Servi-Car (the “G” family), leading to the “solo” distinction.  During World War II, Harley-Davidson produced and dispatched approximately 90,000 WLA motorcycles overseas to support the war effort. The motorcycle was affectionately known as the “Liberator” by U.S. Service Men and Women.

Private Robert J. Vance

Quick to recognize a product placement opportunity, H-D (via Davie Brown) worked with Marvel Studios to recreate five replica bikes which is tied in to the July 22nd release of Captain America: The First Avenger.  In addition, Harley Davidson has launched an interactive web site that showcases the hero’s vintage ride and offers fans a chance to win a one-of-a-kind custom motorcycle.  Cool.

Lastly, the northwest has something loosely connected with this movie…Private Robert J. Vance, from Portland, Oregon, had his photo taken while riding a motorcycle as a messenger of the 33rd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division in the fields of Normandy in late July, 1944 on a H-D WLA.

Photos courtesy of Marvel, H-D WLA Service Manual (large .pdf) and U.S. Army Signal Corps

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Sarah Palin Rides In Rolling Thunder - 2011

Well the end of the world didn’t happen earlier in the month as Harold Camping of Family Radio had predicted.  In fact, Mr. Camping first predicted the end of world back in 1994 and I’m not sure how many doomsday predictions we’ll give the Christian broadcaster before skeptics scoff at his antics and totally dismiss the message.

And, speaking of doomsday…

To hear the “rumbles” – and, I’m not talking about the thousands of bikes which appeared at the annual Rolling Thunder bike rally in Arlington, Virginia which draws attention to American troops who have gone missing in combat and remain unaccounted for – rather I’m talking about participants in the ride who expressed mixed feelings when former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) hoped onto a Harley and joined thousands of riders.

I don’t know about you , but this has a bit of that “spoiled little Daddy’s uptown girl lives rent free” smell to it.  Average talent and giant hype.  When I listen to her speak I hear the marketing machine.  Palin talking about military hardships?!  It’s like listening to the building receptionist droll on and on about the hardships of the African child she supports through TV commercial contributions.  She’s speaking the words, but her connection and understanding of the hardships are highly suspect.  Like the Creedence Clearwater Revival song… it’s true, some kids are born with a silver spoon.  But, there are a lot of us who didn’t even have spoons, wooden or plastic!

You’re likely thinking, blah, blah, blah… it’s just politics so chill out, Mac.  You’re right.  Maybe I’m feeling a little envious that I couldn’t participate…

Okay.  Independent of political leanings and politician likes, I do believe the involvement of a high-profile politician can only boost the visibility of the veteran’s event, raise contribution awareness and help energize America to not forget.  That is a good thing.   Thank you Sarah Palin!

Photo courtesy of AP

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A bowl hair cut, peering eyes and scores of people running all around nervous and looking exhausted.

And you thought the title reference was about Justin Bieber’s 105 minutes of fame adolescent screams where he tries to prove he’s just a regular guy in 3D!

Glock Model 22

Unfortunately, I’m talking about the recovery rate of weapons stolen from or lost by law enforcement.

There it was in my inbox… a newsflash from Oregon State Police — an OSP detective conducting a follow up investigation who went into a unisex restroom at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center and placed their handgun (a Glock model 22(Black)) in its holster inside the restroom.  The detective left the restroom without the holstered handgun, but didn’t notice it missing until after leaving the hospital.

Oops!

If we lived in South Africa no one would even take note of this incident.  According to this report, the police in that country lost more than 3,000 firearms in 2010.  So many in fact, that the police have wittingly or unwittingly become a major supplier of weapons to the country’s criminal underworld.

So, I won’t get my panties in a bunch, because I know mistakes happen.   You may even remember back in 2000 a Gresham policeman had 4 guns, including a MP-5 machine gun stolen from his home.  He was a member of the department’s Special Emergency Response Team who was allowed to keep automatic weapons and the thieves targeted his place.  They were caught.

Timing is everything and it’s not been a stellar start in the new year for law enforcement.  We have this lost gun/rest room incident.  Add to that the 16-year veteran police lieutenant from Redmond (Larry Prince) arrested in Coos Bay accused of selling firearms and other stolen items while he ran the armory.  And then we have the 3 deadly encounters between military vets and law enforcement over the last 5 months.  Anthony McDowell.  Thomas Higginbotham.  Nikkolas Lookabill.

Not to be influenced, the ever thinner Oregonian thought it was perfect timing for a pro-law enforcement editorial proclaiming that the time has come to admit that “we” made a mistake in 1980 and for the public to fix it… by voting for a constitutional amendment to restore primary funding of the state police to the gas tax.  If approved in November it would redirect $93M in gas taxes to fund OSP patrols over the next two years.  Most ballsy given all the negative news on law enforcement!  I half expect Portlandia‘s dreamy and absurd major Sam Adams to hold a press briefing any moment to announce a ban on high-capacity magazines and proclaim how that will prevent crime from ever happening again.

Here’s, my question… would any of that $93M go toward training officers or is this all about a ‘show of force’ with a bunch more shiny new “radar’ed up” Dodge Chargers and officers decked out in SWAT attire looking to pull over motorcyclists doing 7MPH over the speed limit in rural Baker County?  Yeah, I’m still bitter about that one!  How is it funded after year two?  Is it always an ever increasing burden on the few(er) employed people in the state to fund rising costs for PERS, health plans, benefits, etc.,?  Does this make sense to claim there is 365x24x7 coverage in remote parts of the state?

But I’ve really gotten off track now and will step down from the soap box.

If you find the missing gun you are encouraged to contact Sgt. Jon Harrington at: 503.731.3020 ext. 258.

Photo courtesy of Glock.

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WBC Flyer Targets PGR

In September I blogged about Fred J. Brehony who was killed in a motorcycle accident in route to the Willamette National Cemetery.  He was a member of the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) and riding to support a funeral for Howell “Hal” Birdwell (a U.S. Vietnam War Veteran).

Mr. Brehony was a U.S. Navy Veteran who served on a destroyer during the Vietnam War and deeply believed in the mission of the Patriot Guard.  He was very committed to stand as a silent sentry at military funerals out of respect for vets and in part to protect families from potential protesters who would show up to cheer fallen soldiers.

Speaking of protesters inappropriate actions, I learned yesterday that the Westboro Baptist Church – you know them as group behind protests and the harsh treatment of families who are grieving the loss of their loved ones – have now turned their hateful focus on the Patriot Guards.

Here is the flier (.pdf) which organized the protest in Mulvane, KS and calls out the PGR.  Below are the actual words from the flyer:

WBC WILL PICKET FAG-INFESTED & PERVERT-RUN MULVANE HIGH SCHOOL (1900 N. ROCK ROAD, MULVANE, KS), TUES., NOV. 30, FROM 7:15 – 7:45 AM

Mulvane, KS has the shame and dishonor of being the birthplace of the Patriot Guard Riders.  This is a group of God-hating brutes who worship their great goddess the American flag & wave such flags outside the funerals of raging rebels, apparently thinking such vain idolatry can stop God.  What foolishness.

God hates you, Doomed America, for what you have done to your children! Here is the COMMANDMENT from your god:

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of they house, and on they gates.”  Deut. 6:6-9

You will not obey that simple commandment.  Instead, you corrupt your children from the womb, so God has given you violent, freakish, worthless, brute-beast children.  You hate your children, and as God continues cursing you, you will turn aside to eat your children.

GOD’S CURSE IS ON YOUR BRATS, DOOMED AMERICA!

If you’re not aware of the group – they believe that God is punishing the U.S. via soldiers’ deaths because our county allows homosexuality.  Whether right or wrong we all have the right to believe what we want to think. No question.  And I fully understand as citizens of the U.S. we are entitled to freedom of speech.  But, don’t the families and friends have a right to some dignity, to peacefully morn their loved ones and have a sense of closure without protestors disrupting or showing disrespect?

I cannot understand what would make someone take comfort in protesting a funeral.

UPDATE: March 2, 2011 – The Supreme Court ruling yesterday upheld an appeals court ruling/decision that the WBC can continue to protest at military funerals unabated.  Leaders of the church stated they would now “quadruple” the number of anti-gay protests at military funerals around the county.  More information on CBS News HERE.  The lead WBC lawyer was Margie Phelps, the daughter of Fred Phelps the pastor of the church.  What a disappointment and I’m sad for Albert Snyder who sued WBC over picketing his son’s funeral.

Photo courtesy of Westboro Baptist Church, but used without their permission.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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