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Posts Tagged ‘Armed Forces’

US-FlagGrilling, pool parties and retail discounts.  I’m talking about Memorial Day!

This coming Monday is a day to remember and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

So as you cue-up your music playlist for a ride on this holiday and/or prep the BBQ’s to spend time with family and friends, it’s important that we take a moment to pause and remember our fallen heroes.

If you’re looking for Oregon Memorial Day events to participate in then visit HERE.

Photo taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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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.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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By this time you’ve already heard that our President, Barack Obama, a man who ran on a platform of hope and change, is getting us deeper into Afghanistan.  Isn’t Al-Qaeda in Pakistan?  And, if the Soviets couldn’t win there, why can we?  A country owned by China with disastrous financials (that’s us, in case you didn’t recognize your homeland).

If you join the armed forces to serve your country, to pay your bills, you’re entering Hotel California.  It seems you can never leave.  You jumpily wait for people to attack you or detonate IEDs.  Coming home to a country that pays you lip service, but doesn’t give a rip because people can’t find a job.  If you come home at all.  And if you do return, you’re likely traumatized.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is paying record bonuses and their Chairman Lloyd Blankfein says the firm is doing God’s work.  Huh?  What deity does Mr. Blankfein pray to who wants to see the populace suffer?  Used to be Wall Street helped build America, now traders just profit off exotic investment instruments.

But there is good news (sarcasm alert!).  The enormous financial outlay of the 8+ year war has brought into sharp focus Bagram Airfield, where off-duty soldiers can obtain everything from Kyrgyz massages to purchase a BK burger.  Including a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  According to AFP reports, the dealer for those away from the front lines sells about 4 motorcycles a month to U.S. servicemen.  With another 30,000 troops being deployed, and most of them set to take off or land on Bagram’s runway in route to fight the Taliban it means H-D should expect a sales increase proportional with the troop surge.  In fact, I just read a post on the H-D forum from a soldier who bought a 2009 Night Train yesterday.  Congrats Army_Train85 and thank you for your service!!

Obama’s speech wasn’t all that inspirational for me, but he did state (you can read the full text of his speech here) that sending the extra troops will cost the U.S. military $30 billion dollars this year — or $1 million for each newly deployed soldier.  That’s high-finance and hard for me to wrap my head around it.  In fact, it’s difficult for me to understand the cost ($28 a head) of each and every meal prepared for U.S. soldiers on the base cost more than most Afghans earn in a month.  That alone might explain the attraction to the Taliban-linked narco-terrorists.  Sigh. I wish there was a better way…

At any rate, as Bagram turns into a military “boom-town”…H-D is poised to take advantage.

Photo courtesy of Corbis/Shaun Schwartz.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Opening scene of Semper Ride

Opening scene of Semper Ride

I’ve blogged previously about the folks in the armed forces, the increased number of motorcycle accidents and dealer responsibility.  The military draws many parallels with motorcycling and with overtly male-dominated advertising the stats are very clear.

Military personnel have a higher fatality rate than the civilian population which is too high!  In fact, Yamaha launched and I commend them for doing so, an ad campaign specifically targeted to members of the military due to the increased number of riding accidents.  And let us not forget that the amount of female military personnel on active duty has increased from a 1.4% in 1970 to over 15% to today.  Although women make up only 10% of all riders they represent about 25% of new motorcycle purchases.

In a broad effort to promote more responsible riding the U.S. Marines have produced Semper Ride, a film and web site designed to catch the attention of young soldiers.  The seven minute movie combines big-action and a message on riding safety from stars such as Jason Britton, Keith Code, Jeremy McGrath and James Stewart.  The movie from One Eyed Bird Entertainment, uses a mix of educational and rider-to-rider advice from experts in freestyle motocross, racing and stunt riding.

The movie is very effective in conveying the message of riding responsibly, no matter what your experience level.  After watching it I felt compelled to purchase a dirt bike and hit Sand Lake!

Photo courtesy of U.S. Marines.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Army Harley-Davidson

Army Harley-Davidson

Military life is a lot about adrenaline (shooting weapons, parachuting out of planes, repelling from Blackhawks, etc.), not to mention the amount of testosterone filled “hoorah” recruits go through during basic that gives many the feeling of invincibility.

However, military personnel and motorcycles are a lethal combination as the News Observer reports that since 9/11, more American troops have died in off-duty motorcycle accidents than fighting in Afghanistan.

I’m not going to debate if the military personnel buy high-powered motorcycles and hit the streets to burn off adrenaline, testosterone or boredom.  Or if it’s due to a lack of maturity, a lack of training or inexperience riding powerful sport bikes.  Or if it’s due to psychological stress that lingers returning home from combat.  I’m interested, but will leave that to the experts to determine.

I want to talk about motorcycle accidents and Dealer responsibility.  But, first a couple of background facts:

  1. All military branches of the armed forces have seen significant increases in motorcycle fatalities.
  2. As of October 1st, 24 deaths have occurred in the Marine Corp which breaks the previous record of 19 fatalities set the year before. Nine of the 24 were from Camp Pendleton. In 2000, when the Marine Corps started keeping track of motorcycle fatalities, seven riders died.
  3. The Marines have had a higher fatality rate than the civilian population, according to Peter Hill, head of engineering with the safety division at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C.
  4. A survey of motorcycle use in the Marines, has so far counted 17,348 riders nationwide, 56 percent of them on fast sport bikes, and the count is projected to reach about 25,000.
  5. Military personnel are required to take a three-day basic rider course or a one-day experienced rider course before they are allowed to ride on/off base. However, most know how to get around the requirement by storing motorcycles off-base either at dealers or friends home.
  6. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are about 7.5 fatalities per 10,000 civilian riders. In the Marine Corps, the rate was about 9.5 per 10,000 riders this year, according to Marine Corps statistics.
  7. For every mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 32 times as likely to be killed as someone in a car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  8. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, sport motorcycles generally weigh half as much as a cruiser-style motorcycle and have about twice the horsepower.
  9. In the civilian population, the fatality rate is four times higher on a sport bikes than on a cruiser.
Marines Walk By Sportbikes

Marines Walk By Sportbikes

I’ve written previously on motorcycle safety HERE, HERE and on alcohol related accidents HERE.  I’m sadden by the above statistics and especially dislike reading about our young veterans getting injured or killed on motorcycles.  Many AFTER they’ve returned from the Gulf.  My efforts here are to bring visibility of a growing problem and maybe in some small way help reduce motorcycle fatalities.

But, let’s return to the role of the motorcycle dealer and their prevention responsibility, if any.  First, I fully believe they have a lot of responsibility as the first line of “defense” so-to-speak and doing a good job of “fitting” motorcycle to customer, but unfortunately know they are also simply a corporation that makes money selling motorcycles and motorcycle accessories. The owners of these dealers and the manufactures they represent want you to believe they are biker’s best friend, but at the end of the day it’s all about business and what will bring them the most sales volume and the best return on their investment.  I’m not arbitrarily discounting their genuine desire to avoid or prevent motorcycle accidents, but most all dealer’s have many more requirements to rent/ride a motorcycle from their business than they do to purchase one!  Some dealers pass out vouchers for customers to attend local safety classes, but do you think a sales person would ever say… “You are just not ready for that 175mph super bike, let’s put you in a big scooter” or “Sorry, but that chrome laden Ultra Glide is just too heavy a motorcycle for you and might I suggest that you step into a Sporty”.  Yeah right like that would ever happen!  

Yet another example of the great lengths that dealers/manufactures will go to catch the military personnel attention is the rising popularity of motorcycle sales at overseas military exchanges, which offer two American makes, Harley-Davidson and Buell, at bargain prices. After the Afghanistan war started, sales jumped nearly 50 percent, to more than 4,000 a year thru this channel, and have held steady, according to figures provided by the different services’ exchanges. At exchanges in the two combat zones alone, troops bought more than 1,500 motorcycles in 2005 (last year of stats) and took delivery of them on their return to the U.S.

I know it’s crucial to draw a line between courage and recklessness.   Knowing your limits, respecting others on the road, proper training, and being completely aware of what’s going on around you are all factors in why people stay alive on a motorcycle.  Now if we could recalibrate the mentality of the dealer network from the operator assumes all responsibility mind-set to more along the lines of it being critical to reducing fatalities and maintain your customer base.  If you’re in the “channel” I welcome your comments or ideas…

Want more training info?  Look at a MSF course which is an intensive two or three day classroom and riding course supervised by expert riders. Or if you’re a veteran be a life-long learner and take a refresher course.  Team Oregon has consistently been rated very high in motorcycle training too.

Marine photo courtsey of North County Times and Hayne Palmour IV – Staff Photographer

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Every year on Memorial Day, many of us pay tribute to all those who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day was first observed in May 30, 1868 as a way in which the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers would be decorated with flowers.  The holiday’s name was changed in 1971 and became a federal holiday.

The Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to Vets who ride motorcycles in Oregon.  There were many observances across the state from Eagle Point National Cemetery (Medford), to Willamette National Cemetery in Portland.  I spent some time there earlier and even with a mix of cool and not-so-nice weather, looking over the acreage and thousands of flags is a solemn reminder and incredible site.

I wanted to do a “shout-out” to all those in our Armed Forces serving in combat areas now and to those who have served to defend our country and our freedoms in the past.

Thank you seems hardly enough, but it’s one small way to remember and take pause for our Veterans.

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