Local Marine Veteran Finding Help From Other Veterans
MONTROSE — It was a long time ago that a scrawny 5-year-old Robert McCarty dreamed of a life as a leatherneck, watching his hero John Wayne play one in the 1951 film the Flying Leathernecks over and over again. A short time later, that dream came true.
It quickly ended when a sniper’s bullet in Iraq caused McCarty to lose his right lung.
Since then the former Marine, who grew up in Silverton, uses his energy and passion to give new life to motorcycles, with a little help from his brothers-in-arms.
McCarty, 36, is in his third year – and third building, since opening McCycles, the custom motorcycle shop he founded in his 10-by-18-foot garage back in 2010. Inside today’s shop, at 425 Kristen Ct. in Montrose, the unmistakable sound of a Harley Davidson engine blends with a mix of impact wrenches and welding torches.
Each day,friends and fellow veterans come here to drink coffee, eat donuts and help out in the shop, cleaning and doing general machine work on the nearly two dozen bikes in the shop.
"Without them I would have never made it," McCarty said.
McCarty grew up in Silverton with his mother Delight and his father, William, a gold miner. He graduated from Ridgway High School in 1996, already enrolled in a delayed entry program to join the Marines at age 17.
"People would say, ‘You can't join the Marines, you’re too little,’" McCarty said.
The next year, 1997, the 100-pound Marine added 60 pounds of muscle and three inches in height before being deployed to Iraq in 2001. It was in the course of an average day there that his life was changed, when a sniper's bullet left him minus his right lung.
McCarty’s time in the Marine Corps. was over, as were his plans to work in law enforcement after the military.
After his recovery, McCarty earned a degree in structural engineering, making "good money" in Florida as an underwater welder.
Upon returning to Montrose, he opened McCycles in his garage, with financial help from Buddy and Debby Kay of Ridgway, whose son Bruce was with McCarty in basic training.
"It's really good,” McCarty said of their support, and the support “of Montrose, its local riders.
“If it wasn't for them I would be out of business," McCarty said.
As many as four fellow veterans volunteer in the shop, doing everything from sweeping the floor to cleaning parts.
"I ask them, ‘Why do you help me?’ And they say, ‘We want to see you succeed,’” McCarty said.
McCarty’s first customer in Montrose was a Vietnam veteran who needed his bike fixed.
"I've had people cry, grown-ass men cry when they see their bike after I've fixed it, and that right there is the best feeling in the world," McCarty said.
Many clients are former members of the armed forces. One of his volunteers is Montrose resident Jim Myers, a member of the U.S. Navy from 1969 through 1973 who served on river boats during the Vietnam War. He has been working with motorcycles most of his life and finds a renewed sense of purposed in the motorcycle shop.
Myers, 62, said that a combination of military work ethic and "like thinking" among veterans is why he volunteers at McCycles.
"It's pretty much brotherhood that we have; veterans, we tend to stick together and help each other out," Myers said. "He's a brother in arms,” he said of McCarty, “and a good technician and good person.”
McCarty is trying to change the perception that some motorcycle mechanics are "crooks" by being completely transparent about what needs to work, and by allowing customers on the work floor while repairs are made.
"I try to keep up with each of my customers. I call them after they get home to see how their bike did."
McCarty said he is looking for a larger space, hopefully near Main Street or Townsend Ave., where he plans to add another technician.
For more information about McCycles visit mccycles.net or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970/964-8127.