The Orange Coast Harley Owners Group (OCHOG) will celebrate its 30-year anniversary this year on September 09. OCHOG is chartered by the National Harley Owners Group (HOG) National Harley Owners Group and is one of a thousand plus local chapters sponsored by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and local H-D dealers. Harley-Davidson has been an icon of American culture since 1903 and has had a long history with the United States military. Harley-Davidson motorcycles were first used in WWI and again WWII.
There are many great rides and events that support our fallen heroes with the focus on our Veterans during the Memorial Day and Veterans Day weekends. However, after the Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations when the parades have passed we must not ever forget the significant adjustments that our military men and women will need to make and challenges they will face after serving in combat environments. The physical, mental, spiritual and emotional challenges are often extremely difficult to over-come and without assistance will likely have life-long effects. Veterans suicide rates are at an unacceptable rate – even one is too many. Symptoms of depression, TBI and PTSD are treatable under appropriate conditions. A significant number of U.S. forces have suffered (and continue to suffer) grievously during middle-east / Afghanistan fighting. While advances in battlefield medicine are saving many a warrior in the field, many return home with critical injuries. For them, surviving a firefight or an IED explosion is simply just the first step. Recovery is often a very long journey, not to mention the impact on their families and loved-ones. It’s easy to celebrate the brave men and women of our armed forces and appreciate their sacrifice on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but let’s not forget them during the rest of the year as their challenges are daily. We need to thank them for their service, never forget and always support them.
OCHOG has a history of supporting charity events since its inception in 1987. In 2011, the then Director, Kim Kohlenberger, sought some means for OCHOG to give back to the U.S. Military and specifically the injured. Marine Base – Camp Pendleton, CA has an on-base Hope & Care Center and other facilities where the injured live during treatment and rehabilitation from their injuries. This was an easy choice for OCHOG and the development process for a Run began. The final piece of the puzzle was to find a 501(c)3 charity that supported the concept of OCHOG’s Run. After many conservations with some of the injured warriors, OCHOG was introduced to the Warrior Foundation~Freedom Station (WF~FS). That introduction was a perfect fit for OCHOG and that the WF~FS was the correct organization for OCHOG to align with. Nearly 100% of the proceeds benefit the injured warriors, OCHOG takes NOT a single dime from the Run and only minimal costs are incurred for incidentals to oversee the Run.
With November being Harley-Davidson’s Military Appreciation Month and the United States Marines Corps’ birthday, it was decided the Injured Warrior Appreciation Run (IWAR) would occur early each November. OCHOG’s Injured Warrior Appreciation Run is great way in which you can help. Our inaugural year (2012) was a great success where 350 bikes and 500 participants (including some of the warriors) were able to raise $18,000 for the Warrior Foundation~Freedom Station. The 2013 Run was even more successful with more bikes and participants and $38,000 raised for WF~FS. The Run in years 2014, 2015 and 2016 were also very successful with significant funds raised.
LET’S MAKE IWAR 2017 A GREAT YEAR FOR OUR WARRIORS. Thank you.
The Officers for Orange Coast HOG literally began working on the 2013 event the same day the 2012 event was taking place. The inaugural event was a great success, but there is always room for improvement. This year’s event will build on the 2012 event and takes into account feedback that has been received.
The Road Captains will be working closely with the Irvine Police Department to ensure that the ride is as safe as possible.
You can see the officers and road captains on the Orange Coast HOG page.
A train station is where people go to begin a journey, or change direction.
Freedom Station is a place where injured warriors make the critical transition from military service to civilian life.
The Freedom Station story: It all started with a razor.
Freedom Station is the result of a years-long labor of love by Sandy Lehmkuhler, a Navy wife of 31 years, and a dedicated team of volunteers. While volunteering at Naval Medical Center San Diego in 2004, Ms. Lehmkuhler was distraught to find that the hospital’s injured were lacking some basic quality-of-life items. Spurred by a conversation with two amputees who required special electric razors for shaving, she went on the radio to make a plea for donations and the Warrior Foundation was born. Since then, the Warrior Foundation has been dedicated to assisting military men and women who have served for our country in the War Against Terrorism. The foundation provides every kind of support imaginable, from airfare and hotel rooms for parents coming to their injured children’s bedsides, special sunglasses for those whose retinas detached after IED blasts, modified combat boots for prosthetic limbs, and hundreds of plane tickets to send warriors home for Christmas.
The day you find out you can no longer be in the military is a hard day.
In her work with the Warrior Foundation, Ms. Lehmkuhler realized there was a specific group of warriors who needed assistance in one crucial area – the transition from military to civilian life. The day that a Marine, soldier or sailor is told he can no longer be in the military as a result of his or her injuries is a very hard day. This particular group of warriors often enter a period fraught with fear, uncertainty and self-doubt as they await their medical retirement. They told Ms. Lehmkuhler what they needed was a supportive environment to assist with the transition to civilian life.
The Missing Link: Housing and services to help injured warriors prepare for civilian life.
Ms. Lehmkuhler made it her passion project to deliver what our military members were asking for – a recovery transition center called Freedom Station. This home for heroes would serve as the “missing link” and proactively combat veteran homelessness and joblessness, instead of react to it once it was too late. With this vision in mind, Freedom Station celebrated its grand opening in May 2011.
Freedom Station fills the void in San Diego for a transitional environment that servicemen and women often lack as they return to life outside of the military. Many troops who have been injured in combat return home with post-traumatic stress disorder, spinal cord injuries, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, burns and blindness. They find themselves not only coping with injuries, but facing medical retirement and an uncertain new life outside of the Armed Forces. Freedom Station creates a transitional period for acclimating to civilian life and also serves as a “training ground” for challenges ranging from new careers and college entry to monthly budgeting and home buying.
Ms. Lehmkuhler raised the capital to lease and open the Freedom Station 12-unit housing complex over the course of several years. The property was selected partly for its location just minutes away from Naval Medical Center San Diego. The close proximity to the hospital would make it easier for warriors to receive the medical treatment that is so important to their physical and emotional recovery.
Prior to opening the facility, Freedom Station invested a significant amount of capital into making necessary modifications, such as installing wheelchair-accessible ramps and converting several of the apartments to be ADA-compliant. Additionally, each unit was fully furnished and move-in ready, stocked with everything from basic cleaning supplies to place settings on each dining table. The idea was to shift the warriors from a “barracks mentality” to independent living by showing them the kinds of household items they would require in daily life.
In addition to providing a home, Freedom Station realized that during this critical time, warriors would also face many decisions that would affect the rest of their lives. Freedom Station provides assistance with, and access to, professionals and qualified volunteers who assist with educational and career guidance, and other issues relevant to transitioning to civilian life. We provide these services to our residents because we believe a helping hand at this point – between the military and the seemingly awesome task of returning to civilian life – is the best way to help solve some of the issues cause by wartime.
Journey to a new life.
As evidenced by Freedom Station “graduates” and success stories, the existence of a supportive transitional environment for our military men and women can make all the difference as they begin a new journey outside the service. It is our hope to eventually open additional facilities in the San Diego area, so we can continue to meet the needs of our military heroes and ensure their successful transition to self-sufficient, productive and contributing members of society.