swanksturgis This veteran left the Sturgis motorcycle rally with a free Harley

Army vet Charles Swank (center) is presented with the key to his brand new Harley-Davidson motorcycle by Adam Sandoval under H-D’s “Mission: Thank You” program. (Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson Motorcycles)

By Eric Dehm

If a veteran biker were to pick any location to receive a free motorcycle from Harley-Davidson, as part of the companies “Mission: Thank You” program, it would be hard to choose one more appropriate than Sturgis, the biggest annual motorcycle rally in the world.

Over half a million bikers attend the Sturgis rally every year. This year Army veteran Charles Swank was in attendance and by the time he left, was the proud owner of a new Harley presented by Adam Sandoval of ScootinAmerica and a very special guest presenter in Bill Davidson, great grandson of Harley-Davidson founder William A. Davidson.

Mission: Thank You is just one way H-D is giving back to the military, alongside deep discounts on their riding academy, free storage of bikes for deployed service members and more. Mission: Thank You is now halfway through the process of giving out 8 free new motorcycles to deserving vets with Swank having received the 4th at Sturgis.

Swank certainly fits the requirements of a “deserving” vet. He’s a Bronze Star for Valor recipient for his actions in Afghanistan helping save a wounded soldier and has gone on to continue serving as a firefighter in his hometown of Dublin, Ohio.

He also volunteers at another nearby fire station in what little free time he has. Despite his amazing record of service, he says he was shocked he was named one of the eight recipients.

“I was kinda speechless,” Swank says. “I didn’t really know what to say… they kept it pretty secret, nobody let the cat out of the bag I guess you could say, so when they said my name, it was pretty overwhelming.”

swankfd This veteran left the Sturgis motorcycle rally with a free Harley

Army vet Charles Swank continues to serve the community as a firefighter in his hometown of Dublin, Ohio. (Photo courtesy Charles Swank)

The scene was also a bit overwhelming for the one man in attendance whose name is on the tank of Swank’s new bike. The Harley-Davidson scion says he was proud to be asked to take part in the ceremony.

“I have to tell you, to honor our military is a very special thing,” Davidson tells ConnectingVets.com. “And for me to be involved? It’s very very special. Very emotional. I respect our military from all walks of life immensely. What they do day in and day out to protect everybody’s personal freedom is amazing.”

“That was incredible when I heard he was there and that he’d read my wife’s submission of my name and wanted to meet me in person,” Swank says. “Extremely nice gentleman. Very personable and very appreciative of everything the military does. It was definitely an awesome experience to get to talk with him and get to have him present me with the motorcycle alongside Adam.”

Davidson says when it comes to the military, he’s glad that his company is able to keep finding ways to recognize and help out the military and veteran community, even if he can’t quite shake the feeling that it’s never quite enough.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to put my feelings into words,” Davidson says. “But I get to ride around this beautiful country of ours on 2 wheels and there’s a reason for that. It’s because of our military and a ‘thank you’ isn’t enough.”

A thank you may not be enough in Davidson’s eyes, but “Mission: Thank You” sure is in Swank’s eyes. He says his experience with H-D only improved his already positive feelings about the company.

“I was a Harley fan before all this happened and I can assure you I’m a lifelong Harley rider from now on,” Swank says. “And anybody I run into, I’m gonna suggest they become a Harley rider as well.

Harley-Davidson is a proud sponsorship partner of ConnectingVets.com.

Connect: @EricDehm | Eric@ConnectingVets.com

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