There’s a photo that’s being shared around Facebook, of a letter. It’s a simple, short letter, with Reiman’s Harley-Davidson, the Kewanee motorcycle dealership, on the letterhead. Dated May 22, 2014, it reads, in part, “Enclosed you will find the check you mailed us regarding the account of Christopher.”
Christopher Walters is currently deployed overseas. His wife, Jaime, had sent in a check and an apology for being late on a payment to her husband’s account. He had been renting storage space at Reiman’s for his motorcycle while he was deployed. When dealership owner Dennis Packee saw Jaime’s letter, he would have none of it.
“You send that money back to her!” he told his office employee. “I never, ever!”
And so Jaime’s check was returned, along with the letter from Reiman’s that has now gone viral. The photo of the letter has been shared over 60,000 times, with viewers all over the country. But it’s not a bad letter, or a malicious letter. It continues, “It is the policy of Reiman’s Harley-Davidson to waive storage fees for our active duty service members who are deployed. It is our honor to keep your bike safe and secure while you provide us with our freedoms. We hope you return to us safe and sound. Until that time, we will store your bike at no charge to you. This is our way of saying “Thank you” for your service to our country.”
Dennis Packee says that this has been the policy of Reiman’s Harley-Davidson during the entire 18 years of his ownership. He figured other dealerships had similar policies, but wasn’t certain specifically. But this was just something he felt needed to be policy at Reiman’s. He was nearly drafted during the Vietnam War (a medical issue was discovered while he was being processed and was subsequently discharged), and he remembers the hardships many of the troops endured upon their return. He said he has a cousin that was severely injured while serving in Vietnam. Waiving storage fees was something that he could do to support the troops of this era, serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. It was his way of simply giving back to those that had given so much.
Packee hadn’t really thought much about the gesture. It was policy and seemed like common sense to him. A no-nonsense fellow, he just felt he was doing the right thing and went back about his work and life. And then the phone began to ring.
At first it was a man from New York. He had called Reiman’s to thank Packee for waiving the fees and his support of the troops. Dennis Packee thought that this must have been a family members of the Walters said he was glad to be able to help. Then a man from California called with the same message. Then a man from Ft. Bragg in North Carolina called.
“I want to say thank you for what you did, it was very nice,” Packee relayed the man had said. So he asked, “How well do you know them, the Walters family?” The man said that he didn’t actually know the Walters. “Then how did you know about the letter?” asked Packee. “Didn’t you know? It’s all over Facebook,” said the man.
Dennis Packee is not a Facebook user, and leaves social media contact to his son, Scott. He asked Scott about the letter.
Scott said, “Dad, I didn’t want to tell you, but this is everywhere.” Jamie Walters had posted a photo of the letter as a thank you to Reiman’s Harley-Davidson for their support of the troops.
But Dennis Packee is very adamant that this wasn’t done for the notoriety. The letter was to state the policy and it’s a policy he has held dear for years. They have space to store about 120 motorcycles, with Christopher Walter’s bike being the only current military bike in storage. Other servicemen and women have stored their motorcycles there during past deployments but have since picked them up. Support of the troops was such a second nature to the staff at Reiman’s that they even held a welcome home party for a serviceman who had purchased a bike online during his deployment. They held it until his welcome home parade and had it out in front of the shop so that he could see it from his bus, with a cake waiting inside.
He didn’t know what to do and was shocked and moved as to how far this has gone. He says the phones have not stopped ringing at the dealership and they’ve been flooded with emails. Dennis Packee had his son right a thank you post on the Reiman’s Harley-Davidson Facebook page as some way to answer en masse all of his new-found supporters. “It was impossible to answer them all. I got to thinking, this is America and people DO care. They care about their soldiers and they’re expressing that.”
And then a new call came in. His niece at the dealership handed Packee the phone, and the caller identified himself as Rear Admiral Terry Kraft, currently aboard the USS Ronald Reagan.
“I wanted to thank you for what you’ve done.” Rear Admiral Kraft said.”It was very nice of you. I haven’t got much time to talk to you–we are at sea–but you will be getting a letter from the Pentagon. God bless you for what you’ve done.”
Floored, Packee replied, “Godspeed to you and your people.”
“USS Ronald Reagan, over and out.”
Packee is insistent that he didn’t do this for the notoriety or the fame. He had no idea this would happen and says it just kind of exploded. He was shy and humble about the response at first–it didn’t make sense to him–but now he understands it.
“Harley-Davidson is the American way. It’s kind of special to a lot of the soldiers. They’re over there, and we’ve had several of them call here to ask about bikes and when they do call it kind of touches your heart a little bit. America is still America. I was a little worried about how our country was going, and to see people step forward in this way, it’s just enlightened me,” said Packee. “A small effort like this, and look where it’s gone. Maybe more will do the same thing.”
It just makes sense.
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