MESA, AZ — An 80-year-old Valley veteran who rides for the Patriot Guard is hoping a thief grows a conscience after stealing a very special item over the weekend.
“I ride with the Patriot Guard Riders, we escort fallen heroes to their final resting place,” said Tom Felten through tears.
The Navy veteran calls it the honor of his life for nearly a decade; participating in a final salute to the warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I was never in a place where I was under fire, so the least I can do is take these fallen guys and make sure they get a proper burial,” said Felten.
On Saturday, Felten discovered thieves had broken into the repair shop where his '96 Harley Davidson Sportster was being stored.
“The bike was buried deep in that corner,” said Felten, pointing to a small area surrounded by tires and equipment just inside the repair garage.
The crooks cut the lock and made their way in through a back door. The incident came just weeks after a fire tore through that same building off Main Street in Mesa.
He says the bike not only helped honor others but enabled his own healing as well.
“Having lost my wife, it filled a hole, it filled up a space that was left,” said Felten.
A space that now feels more empty than ever, as the likelihood of the motorcycle's safe return dwindles by the hour.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time in cases like that where they steal a bike, it’s parted out in 24 hours,” said Felten.
His story is now going viral online with people searching for the motorcycle that has veteran license plates 276D.
There’s also an effort to raise money to replace it and put the bike and Felten back on their mission.
Felten says he doesn’t need theatrics or arrests and hopes whoever took it simply returns it.
“If they just put it on the side of the road and call police and say, 'That’s where the bike is,' and walk away, I would be very happy. I’d call off the dogs, I wouldn’t press any charges, just give me my bike back,” said Felten.
The Mesa Police Department is investigating and anyone with information is asked to call them. Anyone interested in donating can visit Felten's GoFundMe.