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Custom chopper is mobile memorial for veterans

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO — A former depot Marine has found a new way to honor his brothers in arms instead of only extending his thanks or by buying them drinks.


6/13/2008 By Cpl. Robert Beaver, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

Retired Staff Sgt. Jerry Royal, from Myrtle Beach, S.C., has built a custom chopper in dedication of Marines who served in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom.

“I wanted to make this bike in honor of Marines, especially the ones in Iraq,” said Royal. “They have fought and died for us and some have come back wounded. I think we should honor them.”

The finished chopper was put on public display for the first time at James L. Day Hall here during the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon nearly two weeks ago. The display also features facts and photos about the tactical use of motorcycles throughout Marine Corps history.

“The visitors for the marathon loved the bike,” said Barbara McCurtis, director of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Museum and Historical Society. “It’s a really good thing for Royal to do. People always talk about how to honor the vets when Royal used his own time and money to give back to the Marines.”

Royal started the project nearly two years before he retired from the Marine Corps as the substance abuse specialist for Headquarters and Service Battalion.

With nearly $14,000 of his own money and with the support from 19 sponsors, Royal was able to complete the chopper, his fourth custom-built bike, after three years.

Capable of reaching speeds above 60 miles per hour, the chopper is equipped with several features that give it a unique look.

Royal shortened a Marine noncommissioned officer’s sword and used it as the chopper’s shifter. He also welded two .50 caliber machine gun barrels together to create the handle bars.

The side mirror is fixed to two anti aircraft gun sights and the seat is fitted with a desert camouflage pattern with an Operation Iraqi Freedom patch.

A string of gutted 7.62 mm bullets wrap around the fender and the bike rests on an M16A2 service rifle barrel made into the kickstand. The engine’s belt reads Royal Choppers and the cherry apple colored paint job gives the chopper a bright glow.

“It was the first thing that caught my eye when I walked into the room,” said former Marine Tim Votaw, who served with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in Vietnam and member of the Leatherneck Motorcycle Club. “The features are (good) and it has a good theme. Being a tribute bike, it means a lot to most of us who served.”

The memorial bike will remain in the museum until August. From there, Royal plans to take the bike on a road tour to other Marine Corps installations to create awareness for OIF veterans.