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Warriors Tour Harley-Davidson Museum and Talk with Family of Company Founder

Wounded warriors with a passion for motorcycle riding recently enjoyed a virtual tour of the Harley-Davidson® Museum and a conversation with the great-grandchildren of the company’s co-founder.

Organized by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and Harley-Davidson Motor Company®, the events aimed to help warriors stay connected and avoid isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Event attendees were previous participants in Rolling Project Odyssey®. Sponsored by Harley-Davidson since 2015, this unique motorcycle group riding experience supports veterans in their recoveries from invisible wounds of war. It is built upon one of WWP’s marquee mental health programs, Project Odyssey.

Over 20 Rolling Project Odyssey warriors attended the behind-the-scenes, virtual tour of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. Bill Rodencal of the Harley-Davidson Museum archives team hosted the tour and focused largely on the company’s military-era motorcycles and history of supporting the military.

That support runs deep, going as far back as 1916, when Harley-Davidson made a sale to Army Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing. Blackjack Pershing was a big advocate of new technologies, and he liked the fact that motorcycles were agile, easy to use, and durable. He bought 12 that first year. During World War I, nearly one-third of Harley-Davidson motorcycle production went to the U.S. Army. During World War II, over 70,000 WLA military model motorcycles were built for the war effort. The company ultimately produced motorcycles for the military for more than 80 years.

In addition to sharing this history, Bill told the warriors that their experiences with Rolling Project Odyssey will be added to the museum’s archives. He also responded to questions about the company’s strategy and future and even showed the warriors additional sections of the museum.

“Bill was amazing at helping us understand what Harley-Davidson is all about and how it relates to veterans,” Army veteran David Foster said. “It is amazing that the company cares about their history and devotes so much time and resources to ensuring that anyone who wants to see it will always have the ability to experience that part of motorcycle culture.”

A few weeks after the museum tour, about a dozen warriors, including David, participated in a separate, virtual discussion with Bill and Karen Davidson, the great-grandchildren of Harley-Davidson Co-founder William A. Davidson. Bill Davidson is currently the vice president of the Harley-Davidson Museum, and Karen Davidson is the company’s director of marketing. The Davidsons discussed their family lineage, the history of the company, and innovations like Harley-Davidson’s first production electric motorcycle, LiveWire®. The Davidsons also answered questions and expressed their gratitude for the service of the warriors.  

“Thank you for what you’ve done for us and for our freedom,” Bill Davidson said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our Harley-Davidsons. You’re an important part of that, so thank you.”

Fueled by Harley-Davidson, WWP’s Rolling Project Odyssey helps warriors manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other combat stress. Motorcycle riding becomes the catalyst for the program to provide mental health education, which aims to help warriors manage their invisible wounds, teach them how to enhance their resiliency skills, and empower them to live productive and fulfilling lives.

“Rolling Project Odyssey was a catalyst for change in my mental health, and the follow-up was integral to cementing those changes,” said David, who attended a Rolling Project Odyssey in March 2020. “My friends and family noticed the change in me immediately, and only by experiencing this with others like myself was I able to improve myself.

“Having a group of people with a long list of shared experiences as well as a shared focus has helped me to keep on course during this trying time,” David said. “The additional virtual events simply added to that feeling of connection with other veterans, riders, and with one of the most well-known motorcycle brands in the world.”

Contact: Jon Blauvelt — Public Relations, jblauvelt@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.426.9756

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.

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