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American Chopper unveils bike to support East Aurora's Vietnam Memorial project

Discovery Channel screen capture

A motorcycle custom-built as a means to support a project to bring a traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to Western New York permenantly was unveiled in a nationally-televised broadcast Wednesday evening. A local State Assemblyman hopes the Vietnam Veteran-themed chopper can join the replica wall as a permanent fixture in Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora.

The project to build the motorcycle was first announced last December in Buffalo. Orange County Choppers, based downstate in Newburgh, constructed the motorcycle paying tribute to Vietnam veterans. The work was highlighted in the episode of Discovery Channel's American Chopper airing March 12.

Assemblyman David DiPietro, whose district includes Knox Farm State Park, was among the Western New York guests present as the chopper was unveiled.

"When you see it up close, the TV doesn't do it justice," said DiPietro. "The detail they put into this - they mentioned it on the show - they said this is their most iconic bike."

That detail includes several shades of paint which, according to DiPietro, appears to change color in different light. He also noted a portion of the bike, the gas tank, is an image of the wall itself. Using a photograph, Paul Teutel, Sr. and his staff painted the wall but then used a razor blade to etch the names of the fallen soldiers included within the sample.

"It took a day just to etch the names on this little piece," DiPietro said.

Construction of the vehicle was funded by Sahlen's Packing Company.

The purpose of the project was to create a one-of-a-kind motorcycle which could raise funds to complete a plan to acquire one of the two traveling replica Vietnam walls. In addition to erecting the memorial on a permanent space in Knox Farm State Park, plans include construction of restrooms, a welcome center and gift shop. DiPietro told WBFO the front entrance to the park will also be reworked.

The desired target date to complete and open the memorial in Knox Farm State Park is now somewhere in summer or fall of 2020. In the meantime, DiPietro hopes to host a special event within the Village of East Aurora including an appearance by the motorcycle itself and a screening of the American Chopper episode for veterans at the Aurora Theater.

He's also hopeful that the fundraising for which the chopper was built doesn't necessarily mean selling it to a private owner.

"There's pushback from some people on raffling this off to make money and, more or less, looking for someone who will donate money and then donate the bike back, so that we can permanently place it at the park as a museum piece, as an attraction," he said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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