For as long as I can remember motorcycles has been a part of my life. During the 70’s, as a kid hanging out with my father and his friends, I have vivid memories of helping them work on their bikes and banging holes into oil can lids, and being on top of the world when they’d let me fill their bikes with oil; or spending quality time with my dad and uncles riding dirt bikes in the Jersey Pine Barrens in the 80’s; to the 90’s when I purchased my first new Harley through the exchange while stationed in Korea. And more recently the early 2000’s when my wife and I rode across the country for our honeymoon.
You see, motorcycles and the people who gravitate towards that lifestyle have always been there for me, during both the good times and the bad times. One of the more memorable events was in 2005. I just returned from my first tour in Iraq and had a lot on my mind and at the suggestion of my wife, I took a few days and rode from Texas to Florida to clear my head and put the war behind me. As the miles clicked by on the odometer, the burdens and worries from a year of war slowly fell to the waste side and after a few thousand miles, I was a much better man for my family, my friends, and my unit.
I have no doubt that this is EXACTLY how many of our returning veterans from today’s wars and from wars past solved their problems. Especially the Vietnam Vets who were cast aside by society upon their return from an unpopular war and left to their own devices. Many of which found comfort in the tight nit group of brothers they found within the motorcycle club community and healing on the open road.
“A Sacrifice I was Willing to Make for the Greater Good”
I ended up serving in the infantry for 21 years and spent a lot of my time overseas helping protect citizens of other countries from threats of brutal dictators like Kim Jung Il in Korea, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Slobodan Milosevic in Bosnia and also fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 05-06 in Ramadi and Fallujah and 07-08 in Baqubah. While serving, I knew I was forfeiting my personal freedoms as an American to protect and preserve our civil liberties and freedoms on the home front – and like many of you, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make for the greater good of our nation.
Upon leaving the Army in November 2010 I found myself trying to find my place in society. I first worked overseas in Afghanistan as a contractor for a year, and then returned to the U.S. for something a little more 9-5 and less hazardous to my health. I ended up getting a good job and also volunteering with an organization that was helping other veterans reintegrate back into society. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel as if I fit in and ended up leaving the volunteer organization after a few years.
Finding My Place in Civilian Life
As I continued to struggle and find my way I was introduced to some people from church that rode motorcycles and belonged to a patch wearing motorcycle ministry called Bikers for Christ. The pastor was a Vietnam Vet, and though a different war, we had lots in common and quickly formed a bond, and in no time I was wearing a patch and riding with many likeminded people inside the motorcycle club community. Finally, two years into being a civilian and I found a place in the world where I felt like I fit in and felt comfortable. There was structure, discipline, and men who weren’t afraid to tell you what’s on their mind and standup for what they believe in and it all centered on motorcycles and brotherhood.
Not soon after patching in I had a moment of enlightenment that came in the form of a simple sign that said “No Colors” and “No Weapons” allowed when I was denied access to an event simply for what I was wearing. It turns out that the freedom I thought I was fighting for was a myth, especially when it came to the First Amendment and freedom to express yourself.
Once I got home that evening I found myself fuming at the thought of my pastor – a pastor of the church for 30 plus years, and Vietnam vet, along with myself being turned away from a public event because we were both legally carrying a firearm and wearing a patch showing our allegiance to an organization. So the next day I sent an email to the mayor of Deland and also several other city personnel questioning the signs. Over the period of a month I didn’t receive any response, and when I finally did, it was in the form of shifting responsibility of the signs to the event organizer and the city giving me the runaround. My eyes were now opened to this new reality.
My Eyes Were Open to Nationwide Discrimination
Shortly after the “No Colors” incident I read an article in a newspaper that quoted the Daytona Beach Police chief indiscriminately calling ALL motorcycle “gangs” (not clubs) – criminals, and the Ormond Beach city attorney saying that members of a local club, whom I knew personally, were all criminals and had nonexistent rights and asked the community to pick aside (us against them), like they were the enemy during war. As I became more sensitive to these issues I realized this was happening all over America and not only were bikers being denied their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and express themselves, but they were also being unjustly stopped, harassed and targeted by police.
This wasn’t the America I fought for, and it certainly wasn’t the America our brothers, fathers, uncles and friends fought and died for either. To deny someone their rights under the assumption that they may abuse them is flat out wrong. If this type of profiling, discrimination, and civil rights denial were to happen to any other segment or sub-culture of American society there would be total outrage, but due to the police and media’s continuous war on bikers, the American public is buying into their false narrative that motorcycle clubs and bikers are domestic terrorist and don’t deserve the freedoms of the average American citizen. How else do you explain the wholesale arrest of 177 bikers in Waco on May 17th, 2015?
Why I Fight for Biker’s Rights
I’ve been out of the army for five years and I finally found my place in the civilian world and the motorcycle club community has become my home. Preserving this lifestyle is a cause I believe is worth fighting for. If I don’t step up and join the biker rights movement, who will? If not now, when? If not this issue, what issue is worth stepping up for? We must be proactive and not reactive; if we are reacting to something it is already too late. This is why I chose to fight for biker rights.