One Bike at a Time. One Hero at a Time.

And it's Time...


for 2 MORE to Return to The Road!

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Meet #26:

Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Schroeder

of Appleton, Wisconsin

Helping This Veteran Move Forward

With The Therapy of The Road


“Both of my tours to Iraq were not what most people think of when they

think of deployments. I was not with an Infantry unit, kicking in doors or

going on house-clearing missions. As part of the air wing, we were responsible for the safety and protection of the airfield, pilots, crew and aircraft…it was a different kind of dangerous managing aircraft fires still loaded with highly explosive ordnance.” shares Jeremiah as he described

his responsibilities. “But still, I didn’t have it as bad as most, and it makes

 me feel unworthy of a gift like this when I know what others went through.”


--Marine & Army Veteran Jeremiah Schroeder 


Jeremiah Schroeder grew up the middle child of three boys who spent much of their childhood outside, playing hockey and finding their own fun in Fond du Lac, WI. He grew up fully believing he would be a hockey professional and hoist the Stanley Cup. Although he was high school-level great, he eventually realized he wouldn’t be college-level great; and not having thought much of a backup plan, he found himself unsure of his future. He knew his father’s rule for life after graduation: college, pay for rent at home, or leave. After speaking with a friend at school, Jeremiah chose another path: U.S. Marine Corps.


As October 2001’s boot camp departure drew closer, life as we knew it changed on September 11, 2001. Angry and wanting to do something more, Jeremiah went to his recruiter and asked to be reclassified as an Infantryman. Without any openings at the time, he stayed the course to complete Basic Training in San Diego, then headed to Texas for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting school, and then finally landed in Okinawa, Japan. His year abroad complete, he was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, NC as a Firefighter and Crash Fire Rescue Specialist and waited for his turn to support his Country in war. Within the short years that would follow, he would rush into marriage, have a daughter, deploy to Iraq in 2004, and again in 2005, and divorce. Also within that time frame, he would unknowingly develop lumbosacral degenerative disc disease with sciatic radiculopathy to both legs from the exhaustive hours of wearing heavy, fire turnout gear, training and the physical demands his job required. 


Jeremiah was at Al Asad Air Base for both deployments and spent almost two years in Iraq between the two tours. A former Iraqi air base, Al Asad was abandoned in 2003 after our invasion and eventually became the largest American-occupied base in western Iraq until its closure in 2011. In 2004, however, when Jeremiah first arrived, extensive infrastructure and taxiway damage was present and the base operated with limited and more primitive resources. Al Asad quickly became a major convoy hub, hosting hundreds of fuel and supply trucks everyday. Between extensive fighter jet traffic and cargo/supply aircraft, the base was logistically busy and fraught with fire potential that required advanced 24/7 preparedness. In addition to his Firefighter role, Jeremiah worked gate security and clearance, and supported the structural rebuilds required on base. The physicality of his job and training exacerbated his developing medical condition and Jeremiah found himself laid out on two different occasions because of back and leg pain. He would rest when he could but typically worked through the pain and denied the forming neurological impact to avoid being labeled. Although life inside the wire carried its own dangers, it was not near the level that many of his Brothers and Sisters dealt with outside the base; and Jeremiah, too, felt that pain and guilt, and buried it.

 

His second deployment in 2005 to the same air base was much the same but with added responsibilities of Off-Base Crash Response… and images that would forever stay cemented in his memory. Although his back and leg pain worsened in both frequency and intensity, the psychological toll his second time around proved far worse. For at least half of this deployment, Jeremiah watched over several flag-draped coffins that would line his airfield every day, waiting for their final journey home. Seeing the painful toll war took on his Brothers and Sisters…and knowing someone’s son, spouse, parent or friend was not coming home burned deep within him, further impacted his heart and his mind, and added to his brewing anxiety disorder as he more frequently pondered his own fate.  Like everyone else there, he did his best to tamp down those feelings and focus on his job...but they left an indelible mark.


His tour complete, Jeremiah returned stateside, neatly tucked his experiences and strife away, and moved forward in his duties, rank and beloved military career. Young and idyllic, he still saw military retirement in his eyes, yet realized his need to add a personal release to manage the damage done in war. So after years of dreaming, he bought his first motorcycle: a new H-D Street Bob, and brought it to base. He quickly realized the benefit to his conflicted mind and the escape the road provided to his structured life; and, he rode every chance he had. Life was good, and got even better in 2007 when he met his current wife, Kathy, who lived in Appleton, WI. Shortly after getting engaged, Jeremiah received orders for four years of recruitment duty in West Bend, WI and happily moved closer to home. The two married in 2008 and began building their family as they fought for, and won, custody of his daughter from his first marriage. 


In 2012, his recruitment duty complete, their growing family transferred to Hawaii where he resumed his firefighting specialization. Although the area was beautiful and he could ride every chance he had, Jeremiah’s back issues and daily pain became more problematic and personal family needs became more pressing. With re-enlistment pending, he weighed his priorities: he put his love of family first, transitioned to the Marine Reserves and returned to Wisconsin. Without a job lined up or place to live, Jeremiah sold his beloved Harley to pay off the loan and buy a home for his young family. 


Jeremiah fully believed the Reservist transition would be easy and, after getting settled and finding a civilian job, he would have the chance to buy another bike. Unfortunately life had a different plan for him and set him on a course of rejection and disappointment that would worsen his struggle with anxiety. Within his first year at the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing in Minneapolis, MN, a Headquarters audit removed his billet. Without a need for his job anywhere in the country, he was unable to re-enlist. To expand on his 13 years of service, he transitioned to the WI Army National Guard with the new job of Electronic Warfare Specialist. He was waitlisted for two enrollment periods before securing a training school position; and when his opportunity finally came up, his back injury had acutely flared and not only prevented him from attending, it automatically placed him in a Medical Review process to determine service continuation. In physical pain, anxious about the impact on his family, and without any control in the matter, Jeremiah had no choice but to endure the arduous process. Although the Army eventually granted medical retirement in February, 2020, he never attended the training school that would enhance his future opportunities and, after 17 years, 4 months and 10 days in service to our Country…nor did he end his military career the way he’d envisioned. 


As if the uncertainty and frustrations within his military career wasn’t enough, finding civilian employment during this time proved more problematic than ever imagined. He went through ten different jobs in the ten years since becoming a Reservist that either didn’t fit, didn’t accept him or downsized…and Jeremiah learned first-hand that military skills, experience and style don’t always translate well in civilian life. And yet, he would push on, deflated yet determined, because not doing anything simply wasn’t an option for his character or his family. His anxiety, however, worsened as a result and the years of instability further eroded his sense of value, purpose and pride as his family of five scraped to provide a stable home life and meet their needs. Just as they’d find a level of comfort, another shoe would drop and deal Jeremiah another blow. The rollercoaster ride continued until 2021 when a temporary job turned into a permanent position as an IT Service Desk Analyst. Not only has the group welcomed him, it’s work that satisfies him and offers him the stability he needed. Still, every single day he goes to work wondering if this is the day his life will be turned upside down again.


Despite his struggles, Jeremiah has many gifts in life. His wife, Kathy, is a smart rock of compassionate support and he oozes with pride as he talks about his three children. He is a personable and social guy and has several close friends that buoy his spirits and enjoy life together. Their extended family is both supportive, close and involved. And together, Jeremiah and Kathy laugh frequently, make time for their relationship, and share in tears of gratitude and disappointment–-all of which we saw in our short time together. Moving forward and focusing on their family is their driving mantra and the only option they allow themselves when dealing with life’s challenges. As Jeremiah tries to put off surgery, he tailors his exercise and receives the occasional steroid injection. Additionally, he is committed to therapy to manage his anxiety. And despite his daily, unstable pain in his back and legs, he pushes himself to fully enjoy life. He loves the outdoors and hunting and remains a huge sports fanatic. However, the one thing that gave him personal comfort and release was no longer in his life, and the loss of riding has darkened that cloud that will forever hover in his mind. 


Jeremiah grew up with a father who rode Harleys, and the impression both the bike and the camaraderie made in a young child’s heart fueled his life’s passion. Selling his bike in 2013 was, and still is, the hardest thing he’s had to do; and he believed buying another during these tumultuous years was financially irresponsible. Just as real, Jeremiah feared the impact another setback would have on him if he lost it. So, he would borrow bikes from family members or friends for an occasional ride just to get that wind on his face…and hope with all his might that his luck and “someday” dream would eventually return. Hogs For Heroes felt this Veteran needed a positive life-changing event and healing force to help him through the hard work of rebuilding and moving forward…and we decided to make his “someday” happen now. 


Jeremiah was bewildered by our surprise news and it took awhile to sink in…until he found the beauty that made his heart flip on the showroom floor of Vandervest Harley-Davidson in Green Bay, WI. The 2018 H-D Road Glide Special in Wicked Red, with less than 6,000 miles on her, is an eye-catcher for sure, and a nod to both his Marine Corps and Firefighter loves. When he realized it would be priced beyond our budget…our amazing friends at Vandervest H-D took that price down to make this Veteran’s dream come true. This is our fourth time working with VVHD and as we enjoyed a celebratory drink, let’s just say there were tears of joy all around as we raised a glass to Vandervest. 


Unique to this bike, it has been fully paid for by the 2021 fundraising efforts of our friends at Wisconsin’s International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 139. This amazing group has shown us the love since 2016…and their generosity is making both #26 and #27 giftings possible this year. We will be handing over both keys following their 2022 5th Annual Poker Run for Hogs For Heroes on Saturday, June 25 at 5:00 p.m. at their impressive IUOE Training Center in Coloma, WI.  


Come for just the Gifting, or spend the day with us and JOIN THE RIDE FOR US AT 9:00 a.m. – it’s absolutely the best we’ve been on! SWAG, HUGE CASH PRIZES, AMAZING RAFFLE ITEMS and a DAY-OF GUN RAFFLE! And the cherry on top...they share ALL their proceeds with us to help put more Veterans back on the road!  Catch the ride details below.

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Meet #27:

Army Sergeant Zach Bays

of Berlin, Wisconsin

Reconnecting This Veteran With His Healing Passion


“I was over there, twice. 

I wasn’t on the front lines and I wasn’t injured in combat. 

I dealt with the aftermath of war.  But because of that,

I’ve never felt worthy or deserving because I didn’t fight.”


---Army Veteran Zach Bays


We respectfully disagree.  


Even as a young child, Army Sergeant Zach Bays saw nothing but the Army in his future. He proudly grew up the son of an Army Veteran and wished for no other plan than to serve his Country. A Freshman in high school, he watched the events of 9/11 play out on his classroom television and it further solidified his resolve to serve and protect. As a Junior he enrolled in the Army Reserves and attended boot camp the summer before his Senior year. He loved every minute of the structure and doctrine and it left him eager for his advanced training school after graduation. His father agreed to his enlistment with the caveat that he select a job that lent itself to civilian employment and, out of concern for his son, that he specifically avoid three classifications: Medic, Infantry and Truck Driver. Zach has a heart that wants to help people and he was immediately attracted to the medical classifications. So in keeping his promise to his father, he chose to become a Biomedical-Electronic Technician.


With boot camp and graduation behind him, Zach received his first motorcycle from an uncle as a graduation gift: a new 500 Ninja sport bike. He rode that bike as much as he could until it was time to transition to active duty. He immediately connected with the adrenaline and focus it provided; and, realized early on that riding would become a life-long passion. In July, 2005 he left for Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas to begin the 42-week training his specialization required. Successful and thriving in his new-found purpose, Zach was then sent to Fort Hood, Texas, and assigned to the 583rd Medical Logistics Company. Zach had wrestled since the 5th grade and had been participating in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA); and looking to expand his service contributions, he became certified as a Modern Army Combatives Instructor. War was raging on two different stages and Zach hoped he would be called upon to use his training and skills to support his Country’s effort.


He finally got his wish: word came through and Zach was deployed for a 15-month tour to Afghanistan in 2007. With a primary purpose of caring for the medical equipment used in treatments, Zach was flown all over Afghanistan, through volatile air space, to inspect and technically attend to the machinery on different bases. Machinery, mind you, that was attached to the sick, injured and disfigured, the burned and barely alive Brothers and Sisters he served with. He worked in operating rooms, recovery rooms, and treatment bays filled with the aftermath of war and the physical horrors caused, including heartbreaking deaths, and alongside their exhausted medical teams. Images and emotions quickly laid a foundation of pain from which Zach began to build a warehouse of torment upon. Anxiety and fear continually crept in and Zach learned to shut down his thoughts and bury his emotions. There was no room for weakness. And as nobody has just one role, his secondary purpose came to be supporting triage by transporting the injured from the flight line to the treatment bays and relaying case information. The immediate stories, raw sounds and smells, images and emotions were hard to shake; but he did so just to stay focused. Despite pushing aside those torments they, too, found a path to his mind’s growing warehouse and presented themselves through nightmares and insomnia and a growing anxiety. And everyday as he cared for the machines attached to the family he loved, anger and depression took hold.  


Back on base in Texas, his first deployment complete, Zach knew he was a different man and knew he was struggling with what he’d just seen and been through. At the time, showing signs of deteriorating mental health was viewed as a weakness; so unable to seek help, he turned to his motorcycle for the support he couldn’t ask for. The speed and lean became more essential to his raw emotional release and survival; and eventually he upgraded his ride to a Yamaha R1. He needed to stay busy and he kept his days filled with work, MMA, and teaching combatives. Along the way Zach reconnected with an old high school flame, married and saw his marriage start to crumble almost as fast. And every chance he had, he rode to outrun emerging demons and clear his mind. 


In January of 2010, Zach was deployed again, this time to Iraq to work at Camp Al Asad hospital, a former Iraqi base, with the 21st Combat Support Hospital. Just as before, the equipment he attended to was attached to his injured and struggling family—individuals who saw the combat his job did not require, and feelings of guilt further sank in. He didn’t have to travel this time, but his new secondary duty required he check incoming patients for weapons of all sorts, including bombs. His anxiety grew quickly and once again, the insomnia and nightmares began. Seeking medical support to help with the fatigue, Zach was prescribed three different sleeping medications. Unlike his first deployment, he was now adding new layers of invisible, yet completely real pains on top of the old, unaddressed scars…and life began to unravel. He was exhausted, anxious and, now on medications, not thinking clearly. His marriage was quickly dissolving from a far and he grappled with what his future held. At his lowest point, Zach sat in his room for four hours staring at his weapon. Recognizing his intent, he had the courage to seek the support of leadership who immediately Medivaced him back to Texas. And once there, new leadership immediately began proceedings for a Medical Evaluation Board to determine service continuation. On top of the chaos in his mind, he felt hopeless and useless on base as he waited out this one year time period with a family that no longer valued him. Despite all he’d been through, he still wanted a future with the Army. The Board felt differently and medically retired Zach in 2011, citing PTSD, and quickly forced him out of his lifelong career dream and into a spiraling decline he couldn’t have predicted.


With a month to prepare for his transition, he began counseling, secured a place to live for his family back home in Wisconsin and found a job. And then another job. And then another job. Hoping a relocation would change their course of events, Zach moved his family to Indiana for a job that didn’t work out...and then another job. His marriage further eroded to the point of divorce. And then, the one thing that helped him move through his new-found dark places– his Yamaha R1–was stolen off his back porch. 


Zach was lost and alone, angry and embarrassed; and, he turned to drinking to numb the pain. Staying employed remained problematic: he grappled with anger and communication issues as he confronted differences in approach, integrity and styles; and subsequently, he moved from job to job desperate to find a comfortable and accepting fit. Looking for another change, he moved back to Berlin, WI in 2013 and moved into the cabin he used to live in, only to resume building his string of broken jobs. It took him two years of saving to finally get another motorcycle…but just months later another job hit forced him to sell his bike to keep a roof over his head. Although devastated and disappointed with the carnage of 17 jobs in 10 years, Zach remained determined to succeed and find a new path forward. 


In 2017 Zach met Rebecca, his current wife, through an online dating service...and here lied his new path. As they talked and spent time together, they both knew they had something special. With Rebecca’s gentle support, Zach learned to open up more, trust again and communicate; and, with her support, Zach restarted counseling. Committed to moving forward together, they bought Zach a Sportster 883, his first Harley, to regain the therapeutic release riding had previously offered him. Rebecca surprisingly found herself hooked on the ride as well, and they quickly upgraded to an older Electra Glide for more comfortable travels together. Along the way, they spread their love and grew their family. Zach became more involved in his community and remains an active member of his VFW Post and his Rotary Club. He found joy in hunting, MMA and disc golf… but nothing gave him peace like riding did. In 2020, when their third child was on the way, Zach made the hard decision to put his family first and sold his Harley for the minivan their growing family needed.  


In 2019 Zach was introduced to barbering by a friend, pursued his training and licensure, and found work in an area salon. After realizing the therapeutic connection it provided him, he opened his own single-chair barber shop this year, Bays Beards & Cuts in Berlin, and combined it with his new disc golf business, Another Disc Golf Event. Opening and running two small, Veteran owned businesses has required every cent he’s earned, and purchasing a better home for their family has been where his priorities have lied. As much as he misses the love of riding, Zach knows that the strength and stability of his family must come first. And it is for that very reason he pushes himself every single day to stay busy and move forward. Hogs For Heroes thought that in order to be a better provider for all he affects, and all he aims to be, Zach needed to regain his own healing therapy back in his life.  


When we met Zach and his wife and told him our news…Zach dropped his head and cried. He has an enormous heart and an almost “teddy-bear” like quality to him that only wants to do good and help, but is challenged by a mind that tells him he isn’t good enough and isn’t deserving. We sent Zach out shopping for his dream bike and as fate would have it, he found it at Appleton Harley-Davidson in their back shop waiting to hit the floor. It was a 2015 H-D Road Glide Special and, although a little older model than what he wanted, it was the bike of an employee, a 24 year Army Veteran, who had completely tricked it out. Zack first fell in love with the Superior Blue and black color scheme, then the upgraded Stage 2 with CAM engine, followed by the throaty Screaming Eagle pipes, and finally the Rockford Fosgate stereo system sealed the deal...all in the matter of a few minutes. With only 24,000 miles on this bike, it couldn’t have been any better loved or upgraded, and it captured Zach’s heart immediately. Even cooler, its owner dropped its price for the chance to put another Army Veteran on his bike and leave some money in the tank for the next Bike and Veteran pairing.


Unique to this bike, it, too, has been paid for by the stunning, 2021 fundraising efforts of Wisconsin’s International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 139. After last year’s Golf Outing and Poker Run for us…they handed us a check for $60,000 and it only made sense that we present the keys for two bikes at once, with their full compliments, at the end of their 2022 Poker Run benefiting Hogs For Heroes. JOIN US on Saturday, June 25 for our Presentation of Keys Ceremony at 5:00 pm at the IUOE Training Center in Coloma, WI.  The gifting will follow their Poker Run…so if your day is free, join us at 9:00 am for registration. Folks, take our word for it—this is one amazing ride…and all the proceeds benefit us! 

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Get IUOE 139's Hogs For Heroes Ride Details Here!
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Click on the above Event Flier to get a PDF that you can print & post or share. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT US:  WWW.HOGSFORHEROESWI.ORG

LOOK FOR IT AT A WATERING HOLE NEAR YOU...


...but when it's gone, it's gone.



It's back! This Golden Ale is a limited release craft beer created by Capital Brewery in Middleton, WI and has quickly become a fan favorite. Not only perfect for summer, a portion of the beer's proceeds will be donated to Hogs For Heroes!


It sold out last year in record time, so START ASKING your favorite places and distributors to bring it in on tap!


#drinkbeerforacause

FUN and SUPPORT!
MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW

GRAB YOUR STICKS!

IT'S THE IUOE LOCAL139's GOLF OUTING: 6/18/22


This is one fabulous event made even better by the great people planning and swinging for us! Hole in one prizes and unbelievable raffles prizes-- and these amazing, hard-hat loving hearts direct all their proceeds our way! Hosted at the Waushara Country Club in Wautoma, WI, the outing includes dinner by the Moose Inn. Spots are limited and sell out fast! Click here for details and registration information.

We interrupt your scrolling and event planning to tell you

how impactful Wisconsin's IUOE 139 has been on our success....

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Since 2016, Wisconsin's International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 139, and their many business partners, customers and supporters, have raised over $151,000 during their fundraising events for us. That's a number that's touched many lives, and has given them bragging rights for fully sponsoring a grand total of now, four bikes!  


And in case you weren't aware, not only are they super generous within their communities and supporting other Veteran organizations...the LOCAL 139 IS A HUGE SUPPORTER OF HIRING OUR VETERANS! 


Additionally, as they have so many Members that are Veterans, they started the nation's first American Legion Post 139 specifically for their Veteran membership in Wisconsin.


Good people doing good work.

THE IUOE LOCAL 139 WAUSHARA COUNTY

POKER RUN: 6/25/22


The 5th Annual Operating Engineers Poker Run benefitting Hogs For Heroes will start and end at the impressive IUOE Training Center in Coloma, WI.  Registration at 9, KSU at 1030, return at 4:30.


TRUST US ON THIS-- it is one well-done ride that meanders beautiful central Wisconsin roads. SWAG, HUGE CASH PRIZES, AMAZING RAFFLE ITEMS and a DAY-OF GUN RAFFLE!!!! And the cherry on top...they share ALL their proceeds with us! Ride with us--all supporters/bikes/vehicles/trades welcome!  Click here for the deets!   


And making a great event even better... WE'RE GIFTING OUR NEXT TWO BIKES AT THIS RIDE'S END AT 5:00! What a way to end a day riding for others.  And, it's only a fitting tribute since the IUOE's generous efforts in 2021 fully paid for two Veterans to roll back out on the healing road! 

OXFORD VFW POST 6003

HOGS FOR HEROES RIDE

7/16/22


The Post's Veterans and friends are working to make this one heck of a ride around Wisco's beautiful rural roads, and help return one more Veteran back to the road. In and out of Post 6003 in Oxford, WI, returning for LIVE MUSIC by the fabulous Retro Specz from 5-9 on their outdoor stage. We're tellin' you...this is one awesome Post to hang with!  We'll share more details as they roll out.

BEE HIVE BARN & GRILL RAFFLE RUN FOR HOGS FOR HEROES: 7/23/22


The Bee Hive Barn & Grill in Neenah welcomes all in for another fun ride, with Hogs For Heroes Recipient #9 organizing it just for us!


We'll be in and out of The Bee Hive, with registration at 10 and a pace and route you get to select. Return by 5:30 for raffles and LIVE MUSIC when Minus One starts rockin' the stage at 6:30. Click here to catch the FB event details!

SAVE THE DATE:
THE KOSH-ROCK RUN: 8/13/22

IT'S BACK!

Traverse the lake area on two wheels, four wheels or propeller...at your own pace and at the stops you choose! Even cooler-- they share their full proceeds with us!

The Anchor in Edgerton, WI puts this baby on for all to get to know the awesome spots around Lake Koshkonong! Ink this one in folks --it's a hoot! All the juicy details to spill out soon.
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THE FIRST DISC GOLF TOURNAMENT FOR HFH!! STD: 9/17/22


Long before we ever met him, Recipient #27 Zach Bays, an avid Disc Golf semi-professional player, was planning this fundraiser to support our mission.  And, it will be the first disc golf event for Hogs For Heroes!  Might be worth signing up just to watch Audra learn how to play!!!!


Details are still pending, but it will be at the Red Arrow Park in Oshkosh, WI on Saturday, September 17. Stay tuned!  

WANT TO HELP?   MAKE A DONATION THROUGH PAYPAL HERE

Always Remember...

Freedom Isn't Free.

HOGS FOR HEROES, INC.| 608-228-0026 | info@hogsforheroeswi.org| www.hogsforheroeswi.org
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