By Starrla Cray
WRIGHT, McLEOD COUNTIES, MN Nothing says “thanks for serving in Iraq” quite like a brand new 2011 Harley-Davidson XR1200X motorcycle.
Just ask Army specialist Jonny Artmann of Silver Lake, who was recently presented with the $11,800 gift at Crow River Harley-Davidson in Delano.
“I’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle, but never had the money to buy one,” Artmann said.
Little did he know, his wish would be granted while serving in a Middle Eastern country some 6,000 miles from home.
Artmann was one of about 50,000 US and Coalition Armed Forces servicemen to attend a Bikes Over Baghdad performance last winter.
Each military member in the audience was given a promotion code to enter online, for the chance to win a motorcycle donated by Harley-Davidson Motor Company.
A few weeks after Christmas, Artmann received an email from Mike McCann, director of core customer marketing at Harley-Davidson, stating that he had won the bike.
“I had to read it three times,” Artmann laughed. “I called some of the other guys over, and we were all huddled around my computer.”
Artmann said reality didn’t set in until he had the tax forms in his hand.
He came home from Iraq March 25, and picked up the bike April 5.
Crow River Harley-Davidson office manager Rochelle Scherping said the dealership was honored to be able to present Artmann with his prize.
“Most of the employees here got a chance to talk to him,” she said. “He was really down-to-earth and grateful for everything.”
Artmann was impressed with Crow River Harley-Davidson, as well.
“I bought a jacket, and Rodney, the owner, gave me a free helmet,” Artmann said. “The finance guy, Matt, was really helpful with licensing and registration and everything, too. He was awesome. They’ve made a customer for life.”
Entertainment in Iraq
For Artmann, winning the bike helped take his mind off the struggles in the Middle East.
Artmann had been in Iraq since summer of 2010, working as a robotics technician for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). Before his deployment, he also spent three months in Michigan learning about the equipment.
“The robots are used to detonate roadside bombs,” Artmann said. “We take a lot of pride in what we do.”
Most of Artmann’s time was devoted to serious matters, but once in a while, musicians, cheerleaders, or other entertainers would come to Iraq to put on shows for the soldiers.
“They do it out of the kindness of their hearts, to take our mind off of the desert and the war,” he said. “There isn’t much to do, so when these events come around, it’s something to look forward to. Being in that kind of environment, it’s just work and sleep pretty much. You’re lucky to get a day off, and even if you do, it’s usually not that fun.”
BMX bike tour
Bikes Over Baghdad is a BMX exhibition made up of an elite handful of the world’s best action sports athletes, announcers, and ramp builders.
According to Artmann, the performance was amazing.
“We gave them plywood and they built the jumps right in Baghdad,” he said. “They did back flips and balanced their tires it was wild.”
The athletes who make up the tour are grateful for the opportunity to provide enjoyment for the people who are protecting America’s freedoms, according to a Harley-Davidson press release.
“Our mission in Iraq is simple. We want to show the troops that we care, that America hasn’t forgotten about them,” BMX athlete Brian Kachinsky noted in the press release. “It’s crazy when the troo
ps thank us for performing. We’re the ones who should be thanking them. They’re the real heroes, not us.”
Artmann said he is planning to have a long-term career as a military reservist, and also maintain a civilian job in the electronics field.
To read Harley-Davidson’s press release regarding the bike contest, click here.