“Gold Star Bike” to Travel with The Wall That Heals
The last letter that Steve Davenport wrote to his childhood friend, Robert Cupp, came back to him unopened with a casualty stamp in 1968. The two had grown up together in Alexandria, Va. and had both served their country; Steve in Germany and Bob in Vietnam. After Bob was killed on June 6, 1968, Steve said he couldn’t look at Bob’s parents as it was too painful.
“But I always thought Bob would want me to be there for his mother,” Steve said. Ten years after Bob’s death, Steve gave the letter and a collection of poems to Bob’s mother, Emogene Cupp. And so began a long friendship between the veteran who came home and the Gold Star Mother.
Emogene has been very active in American Gold Star Mothers, even serving as national president. Through her, Bob has met 70 Gold Star Mothers throughout the years. He found a unique way to honor those women, and the sons they lost, in 2000.
Steve bought a Softail Custom motorcycle new in 1990. Ten years later at a John Kay & Steppenwolf concert, that the sound of the 60s inspired Steve to change the motorcycle from a regular bike into a piece of tribute art.
Steve took the bike to Mike Dusold of Dusold Designs in Lewisville, Texas for a custom paint job. This “Gold Star Bike” has the names of 75 men who fell in the Vietnam War beautifully painted on its body in the style of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Five of the names are those of friends, including Bob’s name, and the other 70 are the sons of women he met through Emogene.
“I’ve always felt like a part of The Wall because I’ve got friends on there,” Steve said. “I wanted it to look just like The Wall. I told Mike, ‘You can’t leave any names out.’”
The past decade Steve has been riding the motorcycle but this past Veterans Day, he felt it no longer fit his lifestyle. So, of course, Steve thought to give it to the Gold Star Mothers.
“I knew when I built the bike I’d never sell it,” Steve said. “I don’t have a lot of money but I do have this motorcycle. So I thought to give it to the mothers.”
Soon after, we were contacted by Emogene with the news that the Gold Star Mothers had decided to donate the bike to VVMF. Steve, a long-time supporter of VVMF and an attendee at every single Memorial Day since The Wall’s dedication, was happy with the news.
The past few days, the huge motorcycle has sat at the entrance of the VVMF office in Washington, D.C., greeting visitors and employees each morning. The bike will soon find itself on tour with The Wall That Heals, a traveling half-scale replica of The Wall on permanent display.
The motorcycle was winterized, repaired and made ready for display through generous donations by Patriot Harley-Davidson of Fairfax, Va., Steve Waterman of Ace Upholstery, and VVMF supporter Patrick Burns.
“If by being displayed the bike takes in a few donations, well, I think Bob would be happy about that,” Steve said.