Motorcycles revved and semitractor-trailers honked in support and solidarity driving past the Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus early afternoon, May 19.
Outside the storefront, a crowd of an estimated 500 gathered for the unveiling of the outlet’s new name which honors the late USMA Cadet Thomas Surdyke. A first-year cadet at West Point, Surdyke died June 28, 2016, from injuries sustained while saving a drowning civilian at Cooper Beach in Southhampton, N.Y. on Long Island two days prior. He was the son of store owners Tim and Janice Surdyke.
The dealership will now be known as Gold Star Harley-Davidson. Gold Star families refer to the relatives of U.S. military members who have lost their lives in service. Tim Surdyke told the crowd that he and Janice made this decision with their son in mind, saying that they “want to take this opportunity to honor him” as well as those who have made similar sacrifices.
“Being a Gold Star family, you realize you’re part of something much bigger,” Janice Surdyke said in remarks afterward.
The store’s new logo features a gold star and six red stripes. The stripes represent the Soldier’s Medal, the Army’s highest non-combat valor award, which Tom Surdyke received posthumously.
Tim Surdyke also announced that the dealership will donate 10% of profits to the Cadet Thomas Surdyke Foundation. The Foundation currently offers five scholarships to students at St. Pius X High School, which Tom Surdyke attended.
“All you can really do is wake up each day and do the best that you can for other people,” Janice Surdyke said.
West Point Cadet James Crimmins, a close friend of Tom who was present during his life-saving actions, also addressed the crowd. He described how he “instantly felt at home” the first time he visited the dealership with Tom during his freshman year and praised what he said had been “built into a family-oriented business.” He cited the camaraderie, passion and service displayed by his friend throughout his life and on the day of his sacrifice.
“It really is the faith that gets you through the hard times, not the hard times that form your faith,” Crimmins, a Catholic and philosophy major at West Point, said in remarks afterward.