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A Time to Honor our Military Service Members - Present, Past and Still Missing

Written by  April 30, 2005

The month of May seems to put a little more spring in our step, especially as we head towards our waiting bikes. This month also brings us two important dates to honor those in the military who are serving now and those who have served and sacrificed their lives in the past: Armed Forces Day – May 21 and Memorial Day – May 30.

The motorcycle community honors Memorial Day by participating in the annual Rolling Thunder ride, with the emphasis on our KIA/POW/MIAs. It is with great pleasure, that I’m able to share an interview conducted by Brandy Ballenger of The American Legion Magazine with Paul Teutul Sr., of Orange County Choppers, discussing his tribute build of the POW/MIA bike.

An “American Chopper” tribute to POW/MIAs

Paul Teutul Sr., is founder of Orange County Choppers, the Rock Tavern, N.Y., motorcycle design business featured on the Discovery Channel’s most popular television series, 'American Chopper.” Teutul, who served in the Merchant Marine, recently designed and built a bike for the show, in honor of America’s prisoners of war and those missing in action. He recently spoke with The American Legion Magazine.

The American Legion Magazine: How did you become involved in the creation of the POW/MIA tribute motorcycle?
Paul Teutul: Vietnam was my era. I thought it would be a good recognition for the people that fought in the Vietnam War.

Q: What are some of the bike’s distinctive characteristics?
A: The (dog tags on the handle bars) – one was from Iraq and the other from a Vietnam veteran. The back of the fender had names on it, like on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. On the back fender there is a picture cut out of the POW/MIA flag. We used actual barbed wire going around the wheels and going around the frame, and there’s a painting on the top (of the gas tank) of one of the POW paintings.

Q: What was the response to the motorcycle from Vietnam War veterans?
A: It was phenomenal.

Q: It’s obvious the POW/MIA tribute bike has sentimental value to you. Explain why you were so passionate about it.
A: I’m from that era, so I’ve seen what those guys went through and basically what little they got for it. It was the recognition they deserved.

Q: Orange County Choppers shirts and hats are everywhere. How do you explain the popularity of your show?
A: It’s hard to explain the popularity of the show. The merchandise is pretty user-friendly. Our demographics are not just in the motorcycle world. It’s Mom and Pop, too.

Q: How has the war on terrorism impacted you emotionally?
A: It’s just a tough thing. We’ve been down to Walter Reed Hospital…it’s really a terribly thing. When you go to the hospitals and see all these amputees and head injuries on all these young people, it just tears you up.

Q: Do you plan any future military or veteran-inspired bikes?
A: Yes, we do. If I told you I’d have to kill you (laughing)… Seriously, though, we’re excited. It’s going to be a biggie.

On the air and on the Web. “American Chopper” can be seen Monday evenings on Discovery Channel. Details about Orange County Choppers and bikes built on the program can be found at discoverchannel.com. OCC designed and built the POW/MIA bike. The build was premiered in episodes 17-19, January 2004.

- Brandy Ballenger

Reprinted by permission of The American Legion Magazine, copyright May, 2005.

For more pictures of the POW/MIA bike and close-ups, jump out to Discovery Channel or Orange County Choppers.

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Rolling Thunder 2005

The American Legion Riders and motorcyclists from across the America will once again rumble into Washington Memorial Day weekend for the annual Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom.” The ride’s mission is to raise awareness of American POW-MIAs. At 2:30 p.m. May 28, Legion Riders will place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. For more information about the Legion Riders and Rolling Thunder, visit americanlegionriders.net.

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Bart

Ride Free