Veterans build ROT Rally military giveaway motorcycle

Veterans rebuild motorcycle, will give it away to another veteran (KXAN Photo)
Veterans rebuild motorcycle, will give it away to another veteran (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Next week’s Republic of Texas Biker Rally brings hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists to Austin.

This year, a special bike will be there — a 1992 Harley Davidson Softail Springer. What makes it so special?

Three months ago, seven men took it apart. Ever since then, they’ve been making it new, putting a touch on it that only seven veterans would know how to.

“This bike doesn’t look anything now like it did in February,” said Krystal Hess, executive director of Motorcycle Missions.

Motorcycle Missions is close to her heart. In fact, she says motorcycles in general helped change her life.

“Motorcycles make my heart happy. I founded Motorcycle Missions about a year and a half ago. I did it because I went through a tragedy a few years ago and my saving grace was discovering motorcycling both working on motorcycles and riding them. They’ve been therapeutic for me so I wanted to help others find therapeutic value in a motorcycle,” Hess said.

It’s a collaboration with Motorcycle Missions, ROT Rally, Cycle Refinery and Voodoo Vintage Motorcycles — teaching veterans and first responders how to build a bike piece by piece and hopefully restore their lives as well.

“We’re all very kind of mission-oriented so we are happy to dive into it and see it through to the end,” said John Lawton.

Lawton first enlisted in the Marine Corps in California and went on to Purdue University. He got commissioned out of Purdue and became a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps for 13 years and deployed to Iraq four times.

He suffers from PTSD, so for him this process has been his antidote to stress. In fact he prefers to call it post-traumatic growth.

“You can’t undo memories, but I think you can learn to deal with them and I think this is a good coping mechanism here,” Lawton said.

And in true heroic fashion, the bike built by vets will be given to another vet. After the bike is revealed Saturday, June 3 at Cowboy Harley Davidson of Austin, it will then be raffled off to any veteran who attends the ROT Rally.

Months of work and pride representing more than a motorcycle. They say it stands for brotherhood.

“Honestly these are the people that understand what I’ve been through and I understand what they’ve been through so that’s the nice part,” Lawton said.

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