By Eric Dehm
World War I was many things: It was the birth of modern warfare. It was when the United States burst onto the stage to announce itself as a world power.
It also marked the birth of a relationship that continues to this day between the U.S. military and Harley-Davidson Motor Company (H-D).
“The first formal order for a military application of motorcycles was during World War I in 1916,” says Anoop Prakash, a Marine Corps veteran and director of U.S. marketing for H-D.
“General John ‘Black Jack’ Pershing was convinced that using new technology like motorcycles would provide great agility and ease of use and durability in wartime. So we have had a long history since that time in serving the military… It’s been a continuous link in our history.”
The link continues today under the “Operation: Personal Freedom” program. When service members are deployed, H-D will store bikes for free, and those days in storage during deployment don’t count against the bike’s warranty.
“We really believe there’s a great sacrifice that our service members make to support all of our freedom enjoying the sport of motorcycling,” Prakash says. “We want to return that favor.”
H-D also wants to help ensure military motorcycle riders stay safe on the roads, so they subsidize the H-D Rider Academy’s New Rider Course so all veterans — active military and first responders — pay $99 for the course.