December 2021

2023 Is A Wrap! Bring On 2024!

Thank you for being with us, friends. It’s hard to believe we’ve wrapped up another stunning year; and we can whole-heartedly say that it’s because of you.

  • You read and share our communications; and that helps us grow.
  • You spread our word; and that helps us reach more.
  • You join us and cheer us on; and that energizes us.
  • You proudly wear our shirts; and spotting them in public excites us.
  • You provide in-kind services and goods; and that saves, and raises, dollars for our cause.
  • You hold fundraisers for us; and that honors us and fuels our efforts.
  • You donate; and that buys Harleys to return injured Veteran riders back to The Road for the alternative therapy found in the wind.

By doing what you can to help Hogs For Heroes, you help change the lives of struggling Wisconsin Veterans; and that collective effort motivates all of us to do more for others. We are simply the machine that matches your contributions with a Veteran in need. And since our small nonprofit’s work is done mostly by two people, we absolutely depend on your actions and contributions to make the difference we are striving for…One Bike at a Time. One Hero at a Time. 

We do this volunteer work on the side of jobs, family and life; and truly, we love doing it. But we can also tell you that 2023 was a tough and personally difficult year for our family; and truth be told, we can’t believe we pulled off 2023— let alone in such a spectacular way. Despite our annual goal of returning one injured Wisconsin Veteran rider back to The Road, we reconnected NINE more Veterans with the alternative therapy found in riding this year alone. And after a fast and furious four months of presenting nine sets of keys to the Harleys our Recipients picked out… we wrapped up this year’s gifting season by placing our 40th Veteran back on the road. FORTY. In just seven years of gifting Harleys—unbelievable. And if we haven’t yet made it clear enough, this kind of magic happens because you are a part of our grassroots effort to heal injured, at-risk Veterans by returning wind therapy to their lives.

FORTY. That’s significant: not only because that number is a huge, mind-boggling pole vault way over our goal, but because it also represents over $1,000,000 in donations raised for, and fully applied to, our Veteran's healing. There is nothing that came out of that cool million except beautiful Bike purchases to pair with our Veteran riders.  Forty of them, to be exact, and those we’re preparing to gift in 2024. We have the checkbook to prove it, folks: no salaries, no expenses, no overhead, no merchandise— your dollars buy nothing. but. bike. We think our Veterans deserve 100% from us.

We’re currently resting up (sort of) for the busy year ahead of us; and while we’ll continue to look for ways to simplify our work, one thing is for sure: we want to break 2023’s record. Insert drum roll here…....right now, we have raised enough for AT LEAST EIGHT MORE BIKES IN 2024 to support eight more struggling Veterans—and their spouses, families, friends, employers and communities—simply because a motorcycle will reenter their life.  

Again, Hogs For Heroes depends on you. If you’re looking to share, please consider us. If you, your group or your business are planning fundraising events, think about making us a beneficiary. And if you know an injured Wisconsin Veteran rider whose healing might be enhanced by returning to The Road, please direct them our way to learn. Without doubt, we gift more than just a motorcycle.

We are darn grateful each of you has joined us in some way and can’t wait for our paths to cross again. In the meantime, stay healthy and safe… cross your fingers for an early, warm spring… and take good care of each other. 

All the best in the New Year to come—

Kevin and Audra Thompson, Founders



Catch Who's In

2023's Side View Mirror...

(Click here to read their full stories on our website's "News" page!)


#40: Army National Guardsman & Army Reservist Bryan Knez of Oostburg, WI

After 8 years of service, including a 30-month domestic deployment at Fort McCoy to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and three surgeries to repair torn knee ligaments incurred during active duty, Bryan eventually followed his law enforcement dreams. Getting there was no easy path for their family with financial struggles threatening the loss of their home, bills piling up, and pain that worsened as he juggled multiple jobs. Together they made ends meet with Bryan living in a van, across the state from his family, while he went through law enforcement academy. Flash forward and Bryan is currently a Deputy Sheriff within the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department. Over the years he took up riding and it quickly became his way of releasing burdens and stress. The knee pain and its limitation have never left and compensating body mechanics further affected his back, eventually causing him to sell his CBR when he could no longer tolerate its riding position. Bryan began saving for a bagger, but life got in the way and supporting his family always took precedence over anything he may have hoped to buy. While still enthralled with serving others, losing riding as his release for the job's psychological burdens has made life harder to endure. Hogs For Heroes believed putting this Veteran back on the road would allow him better care for himself and continue caring for the community he loves. Bryan received his bike on September 2, 2023.


#39: Navy & Army Reservist John Olen II of Appleton, WI

After a few years of running with the wrong crowd, John joined the Navy and became one of few selected to serve in the prestigious U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard. During the course of his next two years, he would drill with physical and psychological control to perform at least 750 funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery, year-round and in the worst of weather conditions, honoring and absorbing the grief of others. Although a great honor, the toll of his service laid a foundation of depression and PTSD that only grew as he moved along in his military career and personal life. He then became a Corpsman working stateside; and after separating in 2014, he joined the Army Reserves a year later for the additional income and chance to remain with his daughters. This time he focused in Psychological Operations and was working toward Drill Sergeant when Covid derailed his efforts and he realized it was time to permanently separate. During his time in the Navy, a friend introduced him to riding and it quickly became a lifeline for John: helping him through his hardest life moments and right up until he lost his bike in divorce. After moving through years of counseling, educational pursuits and financial pressures, John has found himself on a better path but missing his bike and the peace it provided him. Newly remarried and now with five young children in their combined household, purchasing a motorcycle isn't an option they can afford--and that's where Hogs For Heroes stepped in. John received his bike, compliments of The Tavern League of Wisconsin, on August 19, 2023.


#38: Marine Josh Hameister of Sun Prairie, WI

Needing a directional life change and feeling the need to fight, Josh took an unplanned turn into the Marine Recruiter's lot one day, asked for an Infantry assignment, and then requested the fastest deployment he could get. A year later he was on an MEU to the West Pacific that unexpectedly changed course and, instead, took Josh to Iraq where, in 2004, he landed in the midst of heightened explosive and deadly combat. Images, actions, smells and sounds fed an anxiety he had to hide and quickly built a home for demons he couldn't talk about. He returned stateside to ride, enjoy life and marry. He was on another MEU that was headed to Iraq when the ship again changed course and this time, went to the West Pacific. With great relief, Josh realized then he had had his fill of combat and anxiety and chose to separate from service when his contract was complete. Oddly enough, Josh still wanted to serve others and he then chose to become a Police Officer with Sun Prairie PD. Ten years later, and after counseling he had to hide, the job strains met with his demons and he resigned to support his own mental health. Josh rode most of his adult life, originally for the thrill, then to keep his demons at bay. Unfortunately, PTSD also took its toll on his marriage; and in the fray of divorce, he lost his bike and the brotherhood that came with it. With no finances for a bike, Josh could only dream of his return to riding "someday". Hogs For Heroes felt that "someday" should be now to help this Veteran stay on the good path he created for himself. Josh received his keys on July 15, 2023 during the 120th Harley-Davidson Anniversary Celebration.


#37: Marine & Army Veteran, Sergeant First Class Earl Beaudry Jr. of Wisconsin Rapids, WI

After five years as an Infantryman in the Marines, Earl separated in 1995 to pursue his dream of joining the DEA. Ineligible without a college degree, and struggling to fit in the public sector, he needed a way to provide for his young family. Six months after separating, Earl turned toward the comfort and stability the military provided him. Unfortunately the Marine Corps had an enlistment freeze at the time and so he chose the Army, where he would remain active duty, in the Infantry, for another 19 years. During his 24 years of service solely focused on combat, Earl would take on hundreds of trainings, multiple deployments and five separate combat deployments. It all took a toll, leaving this Purple Heart recipient to battle anxieties and depression as well as the physical ramifications 24 years worth of drills, jumps, rough living, explosions and a TBI would impose. After years of dreaming of a motorcycle, Earl bought his first Harley in 2010, when he found himself finally attached to a permanent base, and immediately grasped its therapeutic benefits. After retiring in 2015, and seemingly overnight, he found himself without structure, purpose or family; and riding helped fill those holes. When his father became ill, Earl sold his Harley to pay for the costs of moving back to Wisconsin to care for him and hasn't been in a position to afford another bike since. Hogs For Heroes believes riding moves a soul, and we thought returning to the road would help Earl move further down his healing road. Earl's bike rolled out on June 24, 2023, compliments of Wisconsin's International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 139 .


#36: Army Veteran Chad Caso of New Glarus, WI

After a rough childhood, Chad enlisted in the Army to both make something of himself and earn a stable month before 9/11. It took every bit of courage he had to leave home one month later, on the brink of war. In March, 2003, now an Abrahms Tank Crewman, Chad's unit was the first to invade Baghdad, rolling through untouched, rough terrain, gathering intel, taking out assailants and clearing a path for U.S. Forces behind them. Combat left an indelible mark on Chad and a deep moral injury that he'd spend the rest of his precarious life dealing with. After completing his three year contract, and without transitional support, Chad found himself struggling with all he'd been through and his abrupt return to civilian life. Unable to fit in, he joined the Army Reserves for the stability and income he desperately needed. He successfully became a Surgical Technician; but unfortunately his demons followed him and began to erode both his military and personal lives. Chad is a fighter who's fought for every opportunity and accomplishment; and, for every day of his life. In the midst of fighting for himself and his marriage, Chad learned to ride. He bought a cheap bike and immediately understood what riding could do for his tortured heart and mind, as well as what it could do for his relationships. But with his bike in disrepair, and unable to afford a replacement, Chad struggled even more. Hogs For Heroes felt someone needed to fight for Chad and the good man that he is. He received his keys on June 4, 2023 on a bike made possible by funds raised in 2022 by sister restaurants, Sloppy Joes and Smoke on The Water, at their annual Ride and Music Festival in Lake Okauchee, WI.


#35: Army Veteran Derek Gagne of Seymour, WI

Derek joined the Army National Guard as a 17 year-old junior in high school, graduated a year later and left for boot camp in July, 2005... delaying his basketball scholarship to UW-Madison, because he loved his Country more and wanted first to serve. Trained as an MP, Derek deployed to Iraq where, while on base, a mortar struck mere feet from him. Injured himself, he still pulled two unconscious Brothers from the wreckage; and after losing 90% of his hearing, he earned his first Purple Heart. Two months later, his vehicle took a direct hit from a RPG. Bloodied, blinded and limping, he began pulling out two others still in the vehicle. Derek was riddled with shrapnel, lost his nose and left eye vision, and sustained injuries to both legs that would require immediate surgical amputation of his right lower leg and part of his left lower leg. At just age 20, he would receive his second Purple Heart for injuries in combat and a Bronze Star Medal for his heroic service. After several surgeries and extensive rehab, Derek pushed faster than predicted to regain his new sense of normal. Part of that journey included learning to drive again, race cars, get a college education, play basketball again, find love and start a family...and regain his motorcycle license. He finessed his skills and confidence on his wife's Softail and passed his riders class with ease. Unable to afford his own bike, Derek happily rode hers for the escape and comfort it provided him, and drove his wife around on dates. Hogs For Heroes couldn't help but admire this man's perseverance and believed having his own bike would support his life journey. Derek rolled out on May 13, 2023, on a bike that came compliments of Wisconsin's International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 139 fundraising efforts in 2022.


#34: Army Veteran Paul Kruse of Green Bay, WI

Paul joined the Army 's Military Police for direction; and after nine years and two combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, it was his Bike that ultimately provided for his life direction. He started riding at 16, had a bike on base, and rode it as much as he could to alieve his pain, mental and physical. After separating from service, he took his bike to Arizona where he used his GI Bill to attend the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute and returned to Wisconsin for his first mechanic position. Unfortunately, the demons he never dealt with came with him and transitioning into a civilian workforce proved more difficult than imagined. He rode to sort through his frustrations and, along the way met his future wife who loved riding with him. When they decided to marry, Paul sold his beloved bike to pay for their wedding and a downpayment for a family home. Despite plans to buy another, life repeatedly pushed that dream aside. The physical tolls from service to his neck, back and knees worsened over time; and eventually Paul sought help so that he could continue working for his family. It would, unfortunately, take several more years before he sought help for the resulting depression and anxiety he's long tried to push away. Despite all his efforts to care for himself and his family, a big hole remained in Paul's heart. In the application he submitted, Hogs For Heroes could hear his passion for riding and his need for help, and we knew returning him to The Road would enhance his healing journey. Paul received his keys on May 6, 2023; and as a beautiful bonus, his cute wife, who was just as excited to get back on The Road with her guy, jumped right on the back seat as he rode off the lot!


#33: First Sergeant Mike Erickson, Army Veteran, of Oconto, WI

Mike no sooner got his license when he bought his first bike, long before owning a car. He joined the Army to get the GI Bill for his college plans, sold his bike and headed to boot camp. He became a Combat Signaler, deploying for both Desert Storm and Desert Shield. A 20 year old "invincible" kid, he saw it all as a great adventure, never giving much thought to the toll it would later take on his physical and mental health. His contract over, Mike headed to school as planned. But nine years and a daughter later, he was still missing the camaraderie and joined the Reserves in April 2001. Little did he know then how our world would change, and four years later deployed to Iraq for a year as a Civil Affairs Team Sergeant. The violence surrounding him was unlike that of his first deployment. Over time, Mike built, and quelled, layers of anxiety and he pushed through the physical strains that compounded damage done years ago. While running to help Brothers hit by a rocket on base, Mike tweaked his knee. At the time he dealt with the pain and thought little of it, but is was an injury that would eventually require three surgeries, including a knee replacement, and further damage his hips and back. Upon returning home Mike bought another motorcycle to help ease his struggles; but when he needed a home for his daughter, he sold it for the down payment. As doctor's told him to "just deal with the pain", Mike began withdrawing and drinking more. He eventually retired from service with 21 years in, but after Covid devastated his bar and bank account, regaining a bike and the deep healing he needed, seemed a long ways off. Hogs For Heroes chose to put Mike back on The Road to help him reengage with brotherhood and reconnect with the benefits riding has long provided him. Mike received his keys on May 6, 2003.


#32: Chief Warrant Officer-4, Marine Veteran Tim Bahr of Crandon WI 

Tim always knew he'd enlist, it was just a matter of which branch. So when a Marine Recruiter told him he'd never make it, Tim was hooked. His next 20 years of active duty read like a military playbook filled with advancement, honors, trainings, places and missions that we can’t adequately convey here. After a life of active duty that kept him away from home 75% of the time, Tim retired and immediately buried all he'd been through. He rode the nation, started a business and found love again. Ten years after retiring, one phone call to the Commissioned Officer brought his military life back to the forefront: his leadership was needed Iraq. At age 51, Tim became a Team Commander in the 6th Civil Affairs Group, moving through insurgent-laden areas to assess damage, interact with village leadership and help the Iraqi people. His own vehicle was hit by seven different IED's and he saw more firefight, destruction and death this tour than in all his 20 years of prior service. A year later Tim was back in the states physically, but psychologically he was back there fighting the war everyday, today included. Tim eventually connected with a psychiatrist, had both hips replaced and began volunteering to help other Veterans move through their own fights. Tim rode most of his life for the mind-clearing and camaraderie it gave him. No hurting every day from head to toe, he believed his riding days were done...until eight years after his surgery when he realized he could sit on a bike. He bought a 40 year-old Gold Wing and felt the rush of freedom come back. Unfortunately his limitations caused him to drop his bike and, unable to afford the trike he needed, believed his riding days were done. Hogs For Heroes believed continued wind therapy would help smooth his still rough road and, on May 6, 2023, put him on the trike he needed to keep riding, healing and helping others.

Catch All of Our Recipient's Full Stories on Our News Page

Keep Your 2024 Eyes Peeled:

First Application Period Opens in February

Right now we plan to gift EIGHT Harleys in 2024.

Our first application period will open in February, 2024. Our Advisory Board will begin selecting recipients in late April and will roll out bikes May through August, 2024. SHARE this information amongst the Veterans and friends you have in your life--one never knows when the right information will land in the right hands.

Interested? Head to our website for more information on our "Application & Selection" page and click on the "Application Process" PDF link. Only when we officially open our application period will the updated, actual materials be available to print off, manually complete and mail to us.

Submitting your application once a year allows you to be considered for all gifting opportunities that occur in that calendar year without reapplying. Do yourself a favor and get your application in early!







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