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

And it's Time...


TWO More Veterans Stay on The Road!

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SURPRISE!

Meet #29:

Marine & Army Veteran Kevin Ropson

of Wrightstown, Wisconsin

This Veteran Gets The Surprise of His Life

and Stays on The Road with a Trike!


In an excerpt from his application, Kevin Ropson wrote to us:


 “I’ve been riding since I was 18. That’s 43 years of wind therapy. 

I rode while I was at boot camp, in between deployments, and while at home. I’ve road in wind, rain, snow and sun. My bike is my refuge; it's my place and my release. I’ve had many bikes through the years. Unfortunately I’m 61, my back is getting worse and I’m having trouble keeping it up when I stop, getting the kickstand up and backing it up. I know my two-wheel days are numbered, and I can not imagine my life without my much needed wind therapy in it…and we don’t have the means to handle another payment.”


We do.

And, we’re doing things a little differently this time around.  


We’re sharing Kevin’s story with you after we surprised him with a set of keys to a pristine 2014 Harley-Davidson Tri Glide, barely broken in with only 3,340 miles. We knew what he needed and worked covertly with his wife on this special mission. Kevin was standing in a crowd watching us hand over keys to Recipient #28. When we finished with that special moment… we created a little more magic to change one more life. We made our surprise announcement, pulled Kevin out of the crowd and then rolled the trike he needs to stay on the road right up to this bewildered man. Surrounded by brotherhood and love, Kevin was completely overwhelmed with joy and support, humbled by the gift, and reduced to tears of gratitude.


Meet Veteran Recipient #29: 

Staff Sergeant Kevin Ropson

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Kevin Ropson grew up a farm kid in New Franken, Wisconsin. At 17, his best friend asked him to leave school and join the Marines. Kevin had no real aspirations at the time; but having promised his mother he’d finish high school, he declined the offer, graduated and began working in home construction. He picked up his first motorcycle and quickly found joy and freedom in riding. Wanting more out of life than a job he hated, he quit and joined the Marine Corps with Bill, that same best friend, in 1980. After bootcamp together, they went on to California for individual training: Bill to 29 Palms and Kevin to Camp Pendleton. Military life was good for Kevin: he became a Motor Transport Operator, thrived in the structure and brotherhood, and bought another bike to cruise coastal roads and visit his buddy three hours away. 


There are people and days that imprint on our lives and affect our hearts and minds for the rest of our days; and on May 16,1982, Kevin learned Bill had been shot and killed in a senseless civil dispute. This moment, loaded with loss and guilt for instigating his enlistment, left an indelible mark on Kevin’s young mind. He received orders to escort his best friend home and stoically stood at full attention for his funeral. He then spiraled through his grief, drinking and self-isolating to minimize his risk of attachment. He shipped out to Japan and Korea, and finished at Camp Lejeune. Struggling with a burden he couldn’t release, he separated and returned home hoping for the normalcy of his former life. He worked construction, drank heavily and married quickly. Still, nothing felt right; and so, he reenlisted. The young couple headed back to Camp Lejeune where Kevin threw himself into assignments away, welcomed his only son and divorced three years later.    


His contract complete and his son moved away, Kevin settled in Iowa and took a job as a corrections officer, finding the structure suited him. He worked additional jobs to occupy his time and he rode to clear his head; but he remained unsettled and unhappy, and drank more to forget his pain. Missing the camaraderie from service, he joined the Army Reserves in 1991; and with an eye on retiring at 20 years in, Kevin happily worked his monthly drill weekend for the comfort it gave him. Another divorce literally left him with nothing but his pain, and he moved back to Wisconsin to rebuild his life and relationship with his son. In 2002, Kevin went to a church picnic, met a woman and gave her a ride on his bike. He married that woman, Vickey, his now wife of 20 years, four months later and two weeks before he deployed.  


Approaching his last year of service before retirement eligibility, Kevin, at age 41, received orders to deploy to Kuwait and Iraq. After prepping at Fort Knox, he left the country on May 16, 2003–the same date Bill had died 21 years ago. With his head and heart in all the wrong places, he would struggle to set them straight in the chaotic and dangerous world he was entering. Landing at Camp Arifjan, a forward-deployment and logistics Army base in Kuwait, the Staff Sergeant was assigned a team of 15 soldiers to run daily supply missions across northern Iraq and back. Kevin rolled across the hostile countryside doing his job, and on high alert, for the next 5 months; and its cumulative toll affects his mind and body to this very day.   


Life in a combat zone eroded every one of his nerves. His leadership required a mask of strength, and he pushed away every image and emotion he could to the deep recess of his mind to fester with the other pain he carried. Hidden IEDs, frequent explosions and close calls marred his travels; and the roadside carnage of trucks, debris and bodies left him with visions he can’t unsee and an anxiety that escalates many a situation today. Fearful for the young lives he was responsible for; an anger and impatience settled deeply within and still shows itself in panic attacks and in his irritable and short-tempered nature. There were dangerous, unknown threats and people at every turn; and to this day, he works hard to trust and interact socially. Without doubt, fatigue and strained mental health further complicated the physical toll war took on his 41 year-old body. His job demands pulled on every part of his body as he moved, lifted, jumped and hauled loads in massive trucks– repeatedly straining his back and worsening the arthritis developing in his knees. He pushed to fulfill his missions, manage his team and get his loads to those who depended on them. The jarring ride in the trucks he drove, over primitive and rough terrain, shook his aging and changing spine, for hours on end, day after day. Sleep was hard to come by and catching winks on the ground, a cot or a truck further compromised the developing degenerative back and neck disc disease brewing within. He learned to work through the pain until five months in, the back pain so intense, it held him back and eventually sent him to Germany for care, then stateside to Walter Reed, and finally home to await a Medical Review Board. It was good to be home; and outside of the brotherhood he loved, there was little to like about the “hell” he endured. Deemed physically unfit to continue as he hit his 20 year mark, Kevin retired from the military. 


Although grateful for his safe return, transition bewildered Kevin and nothing felt right. He struggled to communicate and relate; and the guilt he carried grew for leaving others to fight. Mental health care wasn’t as acceptable at the time, nor did it suit Kevin; so he denied his struggles and tried moving forward. Flashbacks and nightmares relentlessly took him back there, panic attacks and anger bruised relationships and held him back, and he was in physical pain that compromised the many life activities he once enjoyed. Although his motorcycle helped him sort through his demons, he found himself again needing to escape. He bought a semi truck and hit the road for two years to remove himself from the people and life he so desperately fought to come home to.  


He learned much about himself on the open road and realized he was good at working in structured environments, specifically correctional systems. Since 2009 he’s worked at Green Bay Correctional Institution, then transferred to Oregon Correctional Center to rehabilitate inmates by working on the adjacent farm and, after eight years there, moved to Wrightstown where he works at Sanger Powers Correctional Center as a Correctional Sergeant. Kevin has always worked long hours and extra shifts to help cover his prison’s staffing and coworker’s schedules; and his efforts leave him physically worn and in pain. After years of steady work and saving, Kevin and Vickey finally bought their first home four years ago. Along the way Kevin connected with the VA for medical treatment of his degenerative disc disease, arthritis in his knees and the gastrointestinal struggle that burn pit exposure had since inflicted. Refusing mental health care, despite an awareness of his struggles, Kevin added his service dog, Abby, to his life. Recognizing the tremendous impact Abbey has made in his hard journey, they began training service puppies for Custom Canines to help other struggling Veterans.    


Kevin has used a motorcycle to ride through some of the most painful parts of his past 43 years and to strengthen his relationship with his riding partner, Vickey. After learning about the supportive brotherhood in the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA), they both joined for emotional support and the chance to give back to their community’s Veterans. Without a motorcycle, not only does their membership end, but life as Kevin knows it dramatically changes. With little else he can physically do or hobbies he enjoys, riding is his thing. Unable to safely handle his bike and precious cargo, and without means to afford the stability of the three wheels he needs, Kevin faces the end of his riding days. The Mission of Hogs For Heroes is to provide or maintain the alternative therapy of motorcycling in an injured Wisconsin Veteran rider’s life. Riding is clearly in Kevin’s soul and, at age 61, we believe him too young to hang it up and, still, too in need of the therapy the road provides him.   


As you read his story, Kevin, now our 29th Veteran Recipient, is likely out riding the 2014 Harley-Davidson Tri Glide we surprised him with on Sunday, July 24, 2022… immediately following the planned gifting of our 28th Harley to another CVMA Brother. Because we knew what Kevin needed, we could find the bike ahead of time. Working a second time with Southeast Sales in Milwaukee, WI, didn’t disappoint– and they, loving what we do for our Veterans, drastically dropped that price to make this magic happen, brought it up from Milwaukee and rode that bike out in front of the unsuspecting crowd of mostly combat Veteran and reduce us all to tears. Hard to pull off…yes... but oh, so worth it to keep this struggling Hero on his hard, healing journey forward.

Since we've totally done things backwards this time...

check out #29 Kevin Ropson and the beautiful H-D Tri Glide he received!

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Next Up-- Meet #30:

Army National Guard Veteran Nick Brewer

of Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Helping This Veteran Gain the

Healing Miles He Needs


Nick Brewer grew up an only child on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin. He was “not a good child”: his mischievous nature repeatedly drew him to trouble, and his large size first primed his knack for fighting on the playground when picked on him. He took significant liberties with the freedom his parents gave him; and in his teen years, a string of bad choices left him, more often than not, in police hands. He was sent to spend summers on his grandfather’s farm and, hating school as he did, Nick did little to enhance his opportunities during the school year. Facing graduation with poor grades, a dead-end job and on the wrong side of justice…his outlook was bleak. Realizing he would likely face prison or die if he continued his destructive path, Nick decided to join the Army National Guard with his best friend and left for boot camp in 2005.


His choice proved an unexpected win. Nick quickly acclimated to the structure, thrived in the discipline and found a family in his platoon. He was enthralled with service and knew he wanted more; but while considering a change to active duty and Infantry options, his fiance threatened to leave him if he chose either. Nick acquiesced, stayed the course and became a Petroleum Supply Specialist with the Guard. With that training he found pride and an enhanced work ethic; and equally important, he learned to become a better person. He looked forward to his monthly drill weekends and hoped for his chance to deploy. In fact, he applied four different times to deploy individually and support other units, and was turned down each time. Life grew harder for Nick: he worked three different civilian jobs, juggled his military requirements, married and shortly thereafter, divorced; and, despite his best efforts, he found himself unemployed, in debt and homeless. Perfectly timed with this low point, in 2009 Nick received full time orders to serve stateside with the Department of Health and Human Services for the H1N1 outbreak. Not only did the pandemic give him a designated military purpose, it gave him the chance to build his relationship with his current wife, Kim.  


In 2010, Nick’s Unit was called to deploy to Iraq for a year and he was elated for the chance to serve overseas. He left for Fort Hood,Texas, to prepare for two months before arriving in Kuwait to acclimatize to the summer’s 130 degree temperatures and sandstorms. He then transferred to Talill Air Base in Nasiriyah to work their Forward Area Refueling Point for the next year. The day he arrived on base was the same day President Obama declared Iraq a “peace zone”.  And on that very same day, Nick’s base was mortared in defiance and claimed the lives of three soldiers. The attacks and explosions that welcomed him would continue to become a routine part of his next year in southern Iraq, despite the “peace” declared.


Nick was quickly promoted and as a young Sergeant was given a team of difficult soldiers to train, redirect and staff their daily 12 hour shifts for helicopter refueling. Although their busy base housed Blackhawks and Apaches, different helicopters from surrounding areas specifically flew in for the fuel they provided. Procedures in this high traffic, highly flammable arena left little room for error or delay and the responsibility weighed on Nick. As a secondary assignment, Nick was required to search their airfield for unexploded ordnance after each of the frequent mortar attacks– often in the dark, in an empty refueler truck, and without identifying equipment. The combination of staff, duties and the inherent stress repeatedly tested his patience, left him continuously on guard and frayed his nerves. With experience, Nick grew emboldened and invincible; and to do his job with the obstacles faced, he pushed away the emotions, threats and dangers to the deep recesses of his mind where they patiently waited for their chance to surface.  


As his time progressed, Nick found himself training new refueling crews on different bases in southern Iraq. He moved about this still volatile country catching rides on the helicopters he refueled–aircraft that were frequent targets for the insurgents below. While he laughs about his nervous response in spotting his first impending RPG mid-air, it is the second half of the story he doesn’t talk about as he saw exactly where it landed in a small Iraqi town. Moving about the country opened his eyes to the war’s bigger picture; and Nick quickly learned the fight was far from over, locals and children could not be trusted, and that not all bases were well guarded. Mortar attacks still randomly pounded the various bases he visited. After arriving on one particular forward-operating base, he found himself offering to help and engaged in firefight as the base came under attack. His travel experiences left him exhausted, mistrustful, and growing numb to the violence and proximity of danger he found himself in.   


While attending a combatives class midway through his year in Iraq, Nick’s instructor decided to show him how flexible he could be; and, as Nick puts it, “it was the first, last and only time I ever kissed the inside of my thigh”. Nick, who at 6’4” and then 240 lbs., was literally folded in half as an example and the searing low back pain was immediate. He hobbled away with help, but was unable to walk the next day with pain radiating down his legs. The field hospital provided him with muscle relaxants, narcotics and three days of bedrest. Although placed on light duty, his role and station required physicality and presence, and Nick further learned how to work through pain, physical and psychological, to continue doing the “unfortunate things” war required of him.   


His deployment complete, Nick returned the summer of 2011 with significant back pain and the early signs of emotional turmoil cracking his tough persona. With his contract ending, and unable to reenlist with his back injury, Nick separated from the Army National Guard in February, 2012. Transition was harder than imagined: his new reality juxtaposed with his year in combat left him bewildered and angry, and he struggled to relate, communicate and trust. Although reunited with his fiance and soon to marry, anger and depression grew quickly as he questioned his actions, purpose and future…and he chose to bottle up his spiraling emotions rather than talk about them. He knew he needed a release and decided to take a motorcycle riding class. On the 30 year-old Honda his brother-in-law gave him, Nick learned first hand the healing power that wind therapy provided and he quickly developed a passion for riding as much as he could.


With his new wife’s encouragement, and despite his dislike of school, they moved to Oshkosh and Nick entered UW-Oshkosh to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Urban & Community Planning. The transition from military, to civilian, to student was a whirlwind of emotion and struggle; and the one thing that helped settle his anxious mind was his bike. He found work at the Veterans Resource Center on campus and learned he enjoyed helping Veterans, but between his back pain and depression it was all he could do some days to survive. He rode as much as he could to temper his struggles, but shortly after the arrival of their first child, Nick’s beloved bike broke down. Unable to repair it or buy a replacement, he was left without his stress reliever. He pushed forward, did his best to hide his pain and eventually graduated…but he knew he was fighting a losing battle with his mental health. It wasn’t until his wife finally told him he was “different” since returning that he fully considered the invisible damage war had inflicted. He agreed with her and, even better, in 2015 he decided to finally get help and committed to counseling.  


With another child on the way, Nick worked odd jobs for any money he could; and unable to find a job in his new field, he instead pursued a Masters in Public Administration. Buying another motorcycle was a long way out, so he built upon the release he found in helping Veterans. He volunteered with the Oshkosh VFW, eventually became their Commander, and helped them restructure and build their finances. Three years later, with his Masters program complete, Nick took a job with the Office of Veteran Employment Services. He’d been there four years until this January when he became a Veterans Outreach Coordinator for his seven-county territory, and now uses both his expertise and personal experience to help struggling, at-risk Veterans find the resources they need.  


Nick’s two herniated discs were finally surgically repaired nearly 10 years after the incident; and although he now spends most of his days pain free, his PTSD still burdens his mind and heart. Years of counseling have allowed him to channel his inner turmoil into an energy he uses to push forward for his family’s sake and those he serves. Nick and Kim have come a long way on this journey together: she was there before he left, and she’s been there to guide his way back. Together they have three young children and two dogs that fill their busy house and schedule; and we fully saw the love and pride Nick has for his sweet family when we crashed his 5 year-old son’s birthday dinner to share our exciting news. Their middle daughter has significant special needs, and their fierce dedication has helped her come much farther than doctors ever predicted. A recent student herself, Kim just graduated with a degree in Special Education, and with all three children now in elementary school this fall, she will take her first teaching position with a young, autistic classroom. Together the family enjoys time in the north woods, playing games and goofing around; but their ability to find time and money to devote to their adult selves is hard.  


Outside of riding, Nick enjoys hunting and fishing, blacksmithing and tending to their family garden. After six long years without a bike, a steady income finally allowed Nick to buy another two years ago: a 1999 Kawasaki with over 86,000 miles. It was the bike he could afford for the wind therapy he desperately missed, and needed; and unfortunately, they can’t afford its continual repairs and modifications to fit his large stature. And without a reliable, comfortable bike, he can’t get the riding his soul needs or the distance his rider’s heart craves. Nick has done what others deem daunting: he turned his young life around, went to war and now fights his own ever-present demons. Additionally, he achieved two degrees, and has thus far dedicated his professional career to caring for our Veterans. While our gift is not an award, we can’t help but be impressed with his strength and dedication; and we know that, too, is a daunting undertaking. Hogs For Heroes felt that giving Nick a reliable tool to keep wind therapy in his life would help this injured Veteran stay on his long, and hard, healing path; and, we chose him to be our 30th Veteran Recipient.  

Nick is about to receive his first Harley-Davidson and he needed a little time to determine what fit was best for him. A few test rides later, and a lot of online looking… he landed on a beautifully loaded 2017 Ultra Limited, with only 8,500 miles, in his favorite “blood red” color. Appleton Harley-Davidson was, as usual, phenomenal to work with and knocked that price down to meet our budget and make this Veteran’s dream come true. Unique to this bike, it has been fully paid for by…wait for it…quilters across our nation!  Internationally known quilting phenom, and rider, Wisconsinite Lisa Bongean saw her first gifting in 2019 and left in tears, vowing to do something to help raise money. She designed a patriotic quilt and materials with her business Primitive Gatherings in Larsen, WI, and offered the pattern and a 20 week online tutorial to her thousands of followers, free of charge, in the hope that participants would instead donate to her fundraising goal. And did they ever! From coast to coast, people were stitching their hearts out and generously sharing for the chance to provide a Veteran with a Hog. They raised $43,462—enough to fully cover one bike and give us an incredible jump on another—and it only makes sense that we gift this Harley to Nick at the quilting mecca that made it all possible, and at a place just north of his home.


Join us on Sunday, August 7 at 11:00 am as we pass the keys to keep riding in Nick’s life and help him stay on his healing path. We will be hanging at Primitive Gatherings quilting center, in Larsen, WI, from 10:00 to 1:00 pm for the chance to meet with you and share our mission. The ladies of Primitive Gatherings will be offering a donation lunch of hot beef sandwiches to raise further funds for us— so make us a destination ride, grab a bite and check out this beautiful place.

Invite others to attend!

Click on the above Event Flier to get a PDF that you can print & post or share. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT US:  WWW.HOGSFORHEROESWI.ORG

#NoShame

in seeking mental health care... for yourself or your loved one

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


We don't have many fundraising events left this year...so, please, if you're still considering the chance to help others, we'd be grateful for your consideration. 

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! Get the juicy details here!

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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--just sayin'.


Plans are shaping up and it will be at the Red Arrow Park in Oshkosh, WI on Saturday, September 17.  Get the latest details and register here! 

WANT TO HELP?   We are a small, family (501(c)(3) WI nonprofit.  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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