When Chief Warrant Officer Paul Flowers arrived in Afghanistan it was a literal trial by fire. On his third day there he narrowly escaped a ride-by shooting by Taliban on motorcycles. A civilian contractor with him was not so lucky. The experience shook him, as it would anyone, but he squashed it. His job and duty came first. When that didn't keep him busy, he distracted himself by drawing custom motorcycle parts. Flowers is a rider, and he enjoys working with his hands. These weren't just any custom parts he drew, but parts that represented the adversity and experience he was having in Afghanistan.
Upon returning home to Canada, Flowers struggled, as many veterans do with such an adjustment. He found himself drinking, and riding his motorcycle way too fast. Realizing that he wanted to live and that these actions were rather contrary to that goal, Flowers decided to actually build the motorcycle he had sketched during his time in Afghanistan.
We've all seen motorcycles with military-inspired custom paint jobs. My own Kawasaki KLR 650 is an homage to the military paint scheme for motorcycles during World War II, in which both of my grandfathers served. Flowers' design goes far beyond the paint, however. The unique combination headlight and speedometer unit is an exact replica of his Winchester mag scope. The handlebar risers are replicas of the magazines used with his weapons. The clutch and brake levers are in the form of brass knuckles. Though not standard military issue, some of the Afghan workers he worked alongside carried them.
Building this bike, as well as riding it now that it's complete, is how Flowers deals with and gets through the post-traumatic stress disorder he still suffers from his time in Afghanistan. Sometimes the bike helps to start conversations with fellow veterans, which may help them the way this bike has helped him.
"PTSD is a lot of dark days," says Flowers, "But there is always a light. You just gotta find out where the light is."