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Hog for a hero: Veteran receives new motorcycle

By CATHERINE W. IDZERDA | The Janesville Gazette | Published: August 26, 2018

JANESVILLE, Wis. (Tribune News Service) -- John Giese said, "I'll serve" when many others were trying to avoid military service.

John Giese said, "I'll go" when he was told the trip would be too dangerous for anyone to make.

John Giese has spent his life serving his community and his country: first as a Marine, then as a police officer and police chief, and finally as an elected official.

On Saturday at Boardtracker Harley-Davidson in Janesville, Hogs For Heroes thanked Giese for his life of service with the gift of a new motorcycle.

Giese is the seventh vet in two years to receive a motorcycle from the Madison-based nonprofit organization. The group was started after Kevin Thompson, one of its founders, read an article about the therapeutic benefits of motorcycle ownership among veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"The two things about John Giese that really jumped out at us were service and courage," Thompson told the crowd gathered Saturday at Boardtracker.

Those might sound similar to the traits of most veterans, but Giese's experience stood out, Thompson said.

First, Giese signed up with the U.S. Marines instead of waiting to be drafted. He wanted to serve his country.

Giese was an aviation mechanic, but he trained as a door-gunner on a Huey helicopter--one of the more dangerous jobs available on the copter.

On February 25, 1969, Giese's unit received an evacuation call for a wounded Marine. The regular crew didn't want to go because the mission was too dangerous.

Not only did Giese volunteer to go, he volunteered to serve as door-gunner. He was shot through the chest, but he managed to keep firing while his crew extracted the wounded Marine.

Giese spent six weeks in the hospital. He later received the distinguished Air Medal, along with a Purple Heart.

When he came home, Giese became a police officer, later serving as Elkhorn's police chief for 22 years. He also was active in the VFW, volunteered as an EMT and a firefighter, and he later served as Elkhorn's mayor. After he "retired", he worked as a teacher's aid and a security guard.

But when he finished working full-time, Giese found the past coming back to haunt him, Thompson told the crowd. After struggling on his own, Giese made another courageous choice--he sought help.

In sharing the story of his struggle, Giese demonstrated courage yet again, Thompson said.

For his bike, Giese chose a 2018 Heritage Softail Classic painted in twisted cherry.

Giese said he loves being out a motorcycle. He bought his first Harley-Davidson when he left military service, and he remained a rider for 47 years.

Having the new motorcycle will make a big change in his life, Giese told the crowd at Boardtracker.

"Getting on a Harley-Davidson and putting my face into the wind brings me back to a time when my face was in the wind with my helmet on, and I was standing in the door of a Huey helicopter and looking out for people down below," he said.

"The best part about this is nobody is shooting at me while I'm on the Harley."

(c) 2018 The Janesville Gazette. Visit The Janesville Gazette at www.gazetteextra.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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