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Harley-Davidson and the Armed Forces: An American Legend and American Heroes Ride Together

Company offers extended warranty program for vets; Receives award from U.S. Secretary of Defense

MILWAUKEE, May 6 -- Harley-Davidson motorcycles and the U.S. Armed Forces have had a long, intertwined relationship dating back to World War I when half of Harley's motorcycle production went to the U.S. military. During World War II the company produced 90,000 military motorcycles and earned four silver service stars signifying exceptional performance in the production of war materials. After each war, U.S. veterans returned home to resume their normal lives and continued to ride motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson currently estimates that nearly 30 percent of its customers have served in the military and 14 percent of the company's U.S. workforce are veterans.

"The relationship Harley-Davidson has with the United States military is one based, I believe, on mutual admiration," said Paul James, communications manager for Harley-Davidson, Inc. "We appreciate the sacrifice these men and women make for our country and they appreciate everything that Harley stands for, which includes freedom and independence."

Vietnam veteran and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel says, there's an obvious connection between veterans and Harley-Davidson.

"It's a good feeling. You get on your Harley; it's pride, it's American and it's freedom. I love the freedom I feel when riding."

Harley-Davidson has long been a supporter of veteran's issues, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund, and currently extends the product warranty coverage for military personnel deployed in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"If their motorcycle is under warranty, Harley-Davidson will provide an extension equal to the number of days they were deployed. Since these brave young men and women have been unable to ride during their deployment, we think it's only fair to extend their factory warranty," James said.

Harley-Davidson was also recently awarded the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom award in honor of their commitment to employees who are members of the National Guard and Reserve. Upon mobilization, Harley employees receive frequent "care packages," pay differential, continued health and life insurance and 401(k) benefits.

"Harley-Davidson's exceptional support of their Reserve and National Guard employees during mobilization for the war against terrorism has set a standard for all employers to follow," said David Janes, chairman of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the organization that presented the award in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense.

Harley-Davidson also works with the U.S. Army in the Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) program, which helps qualified soldiers exiting the Army find possible employment at Harley-Davidson. Harold Scott, Harley-Davidson's vice president of human resources, testified before Congress last year in support of employment programs aimed at veterans.

Scott told the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs that supporting veterans is not only a moral imperative but makes good business sense.

"We know from experience that the better Harley-Davidson's employee population reflects our customer base, the more successful we will be as a company," Scott said. "The common bond of military service strengthens our employee's ability to relate to our customers and meet their needs."

To find out more about the Harley-Davidson-Armed Forces connection, visit

About Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson, Inc. is the parent company for the group of companies doing business as Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Buell Motorcycle Company and Harley-Davidson Financial Services. Harley-Davidson Motor Company produces heavy-weight street, custom and touring motorcycles and offers a complete line of motorcycle parts, accessories, apparel and general merchandise.