Main Street in Sturgis was already packed Tuesday morning when Adam Sandoval walked on stage at the Harley-Davidson Rally Point.
Most bystanders already had their 77th Sturgis motorcycle rally T-shirts, and a few sported Harley-Davidson belts. People gathered near the front of the stage with their cellphones poised.
Sandoval was about to give away a Harley to an unsuspecting veteran.
Sandoval, founder of ScootinAmerica, traveled for two years and visited all 702 Harley-Davidson dealers in the 48 lower states to raise awareness for military members and their families. After completing the journey, Sandoval started Mission: Thank You to give away seven motorcycles to veterans across the country.
The veterans are selected by Sandoval and a panel of Harley-Davidson leadership and Wounded Warrior Project representatives. Tuesday's honoree, Charles Swank, was nominated by his wife, Alaina, in an essay sent to Mission: Thank You.
Swank knew he was a finalist for the mission, he just didn't know he was the honoree. Fifteen minutes after the presentation started, Sandoval walked over to Swank and handed him the keys to a new 2017 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The crowd cheered, and Swank posed for pictures on the Harley.
"Fire it up!" someone shouted from the crowd.
Swank put the keys in the ignition and revved the engine.
"That is the sound of freedom, my friends," Sandoval told the crowd.
Bill Davidson, great-grandson of one of the co-founders of Harley-Davidson, reminded the audience that giving veterans the chance to ride was a form of freedom and therapy. "Those that have fought, put their lives on the line, for us to continue each and every day for our own freedom, it's pretty spectacular," Davidson said.
Swank enlisted in the Army on 9/11, according to a release, and was sent to Iraq as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division in 2003. In 2005, he was deployed to Afghanistan. Swank earned a Bronze Star for helping a wounded comrade during a firefight.
After Tuesday's presentation, he and Alaina posed on the motorcycle with Sandoval, Davidson and John Roberts from the Wounded Warrior Project. The couple was all smiles.
"Incredible. I wasn't expecting it altogether," Swank said.
Swank, of Butler, Ohio, is a father of five and a firefighter. He said it's been three years since his last ride on a motorcycle.
As part of the contest, he can choose any new Harley motorcycle powered by the new Milwaukee-Eight engine as his personal bike. Swank said he plans to go with a 2017 Road Glide. He said he felt guilty for choosing such an extravagant gift — the bike costs around $25,000.
Swank seems to be the only one who questions his worthiness.
"He's worked really hard to achieve where he's at now," Alaina said. "It's just something that he deserves."