KENOSHA NEWS CORRESPONDENT
UNION GROVE — It’s not every day you get to take home a shiny, nearly new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
But that’s what Iraq veteran and U.S. Marine Sgt. Brian Kvitek did Saturday at a ceremony at the American Legion Post 171 in Union Grove.
“Just an overwhelming rush of emotions comes over me,” said Kvitek, 43, a Kenosha father of three daughters, Dana, 18; Annabelle, 11; and Natalie, 7. “This is the holy grail. When I dream of a motorcycle, this is it.”
Through the generosity of fellow veterans, Uke’s Harley-Davidson and the American Legion Riders District 1, Southeast Wisconsin, this was the third motorcycle that the Madison-based Hogs for Heroes purchased and presented at no charge to a Wisconsin veteran.
Kvitek was chosen from among 12 Wisconsin veterans who applied to the program this year. The other half of the $ 20,000 budgeted price of the 2015 Ultra Classic Low with only 5,000 miles was donated by the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
While not veterans themselves, Keith Thompson and his wife, Audra, founded Hogs for Heroes last year as a way to help those who served their country. “The idea was to get them back on the road, which is very healing,” said Keith Thompson, who’s been riding for 35 years.
For Kvitek, it’ll be a chance to get back out doing what he enjoys, and more importantly, “he has freedom,” said his wife, April. “When he’s on a motorcycle, he can leave every care and worry. It’s kind of his sanctuary. It’s a safe place.”
Nearly a decade after his four-year, non-combat service with the Marines and playing in the Marine Band, Kvitek saw what was happening overseas and felt he needed to do more.
Deployed to Iraq
In 2006, he voluntarily deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, serving in supply and armory for seven months. After coming back, he completed his business degree in 2013, but chronic pain from a back injury, panic attacks, and the lingering effects of post-traumatic stress and depression left him unable to work.
He found support by riding with the American Legion Riders, District 1, a motorized color guard that participates in local parades, ceremonies and civic events. Kvitek joined the group over a year ago, but mostly had been trying to fix his 30-plus-year-old Honda Gold Wing, which had seen better days and was getting too costly to repair.
“I didn’t feel comfortable going far on the old bike,” he said, calling himself a “YouTube mechanic.”
A new ride
When contacted by Hogs for Heroes, Kvitek said he was “excited, humbled and thankful.” He chose the near-mint maroon Harley, which had been previously owned by Uke’s motorcycle academy instructor Mike Rompala, because it fit his height and provided good support.
Uke’s Harley-Davidson owner Keith Ulicki was thrilled to be part of getting a deserving veteran back on the road again.
“Sometimes we don’t do enough to honor vets,” he said. “We can’t have freedom without these guys.”
Lots of support
On Saturday, the Legion parking lot was filled with smiling friends and family, along with fellow riders from across the area who were equally glad to honor a fellow veteran.
“I can’t think of a more deserving individual,” said Kenoshan Kim Dary, a Vietnam War and Desert Storm veteran, and a member of the American Legion Riders District 1. “It was a long battle (for him) trying to keep on the road.”
While Kvitek’s mother, Anita, of Round Lake, Ill., was happy for her son, the second youngest of 11 children, she admitted to being a bit nervous.
“He already told me it’s healing to be able to ride a motorcycle,” she said. “It makes me a little apprehensive, but if it helps, that’s great.”