THE ULTIMATE GOAL: RESTORING BEN’S TRUCK AS A TRIBUTE
Along with Ben’s immediate family, he also had a relationship with two other families. Working for Furniture Row Racing he became a member of the Nascar family. When he was in the army, he was a member of the 101st Airborne family. All of his families were represented at his funeral. This project is also a tribute to his extended families as well as all others who have laid their lives on the altar of freedom.
The Story Behind the Truck
During the winter of 2004-2005, I saw a 58 panel truck on the side of the road in Denver that was for sale. Ben was very involved with Nascar and during the previous summer had worked for DC Racing Engines in Denver. Ben didn’t have his driver’s license and because he was determined to work in anything related to racing, he took the bus across Denver, two hours each way, to get to work.
I thought the 58 would be a good project for him. We looked at the truck together and discussed the possibilities that it had. We made a deal, I would supply the parts, Ben would supply the labor, and we bought the truck.
How it Changed Ben’s Life
Ben liked to play PlayStation and any other video game he could get his hands on. We brought the truck home on a Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning about 7 am I heard someone in the garage. Ben already had the truck up on four jack stands and had the brakes torn down. Video games were now priority number two. It was one of those life-changing moments for both of us.
During that winter, we got the truck running to the point it would stop. We were more concerned about the mechanicals than we were about the cosmetics. DC became the head engine builder for Furniture Row Racing, the Nascar team based in Denver, and Ben was invited to work in the engine shop during the summer of ’05. Ben got his license restored and the 58 was his daily driver to work.
Mechanical & Cosmetic Upgrades
During the winter of ’05-’06, we put the 58 in the garage for the winter and started working on the cosmetics. We cut the cab off behind the seats and through the windshield posts. We found a cab from a 58 pickup and cut it apart in the same places. We then married the new firewall and floor sections to the rest of the Panel truck. While we were doing that, we also mounted the battery on the frame rails and flattened the firewall.
For Christmas in ’05, I gave Ben an Edelbrock 650 CFM carburetor along with an Air Gap intake manifold. I also gave him a better distributor and Edelbrock valve covers. All this to get a little more out of the ’67 Camero 327 that was in the truck when we bought it and to make it look better.
Entry Into the Military
When Ben graduated from High School in ’06, I gave him the title of the 58. Before he graduated, he had discussed going into the military. His first choice was the Marines, but, he could never get hold of the recruiter. So he settled on the Army instead. Either way, he was going to go in to be a truck driver. When he got out of the military, he was going to drive transporters for a Nascar team.
In August of ’06, my son stood proud and tall and took the oath to protect and defend the United States. He knew there were risks. He knew that there was a commitment for four years of his life. He took on the role of a soldier.
Ben’s Sad Demise
Ben’s best friend, Nick a Lance Corporal in the Marines was killed by a sniper in Iraq in December of 2006. Throughout the ordeal of attending his lifelong friend’s funeral, Ben’s determination to complete the mission was still there. Ben continued to achieve his goals in the Army at Fort Leonard Wood and at Fort Campbell.
On 27 May 2007, while Ben was home on leave before his first deployment, he was involved in a roll-over accident that took his life as well as the life of a young woman who had just enlisted in the Army. While some may argue that he didn’t take a bullet for his country and therefore is not a hero, they won’t win that argument with me. He was a hero, he was my hero. He raised his hand in a time of war and he raised it voluntarily.
A Tribute to Ben
After dealing with watching my son being lowered in the ground with full military honors, I had to deal with my ex-wife, his mother, over what little he had for an estate for the next year. I ended up with little more than the 58 and for me, it was enough.
The 58 is being restored in Ben’s honor and all others who have lost their lives in the military. In keeping with the ideas that Ben and I had for the truck, I am adding turbos to the truck for more horsepower along with a few other goodies. Further, the truck is being wrapped with a vinyl wrap with pictures of Ben and a tribute to the other fallen heroes who gave their lives in the service to this country.
Gold Star Dads
I have three things that no one would ever want.
I have a Gold Star that I wear on my hat every day.
I have a letter from the President of the United States.
I have the flag that was draped over my son’s casket.
On 27 May 2007, I joined the ranks of the Gold Star Fathers. The Gold Star Mother’s organization is one of the most honored organizations in this country. While I do not want to say or imply that they are not to be recognized for the work they do, I will say that they could go a little farther and include the fathers as well as the other family members who are touched by the tragedy of losing a loved one who was lost while serving this country. It is a group that no one wants to join.
Remembering Fallen Heros
On the hood of the 58, there will be a field of blue with gold stars rising from the field as if flying to the heavens. On each one of the gold stars, I will put the name of a fallen hero from each one of the 50 states. The names that will appear on the hood will be placed there on a first-come basis. If I receive more than one name per state, the additional names will be placed on a gold star elsewhere on the truck.
Sharing the Grief of Other Gold Star Dads
When this project is completed, I will be traveling around the United States to visit with the Gold Star Fathers who have volunteered to have their fallen one on one of the stars.
I will not solicit anyone who has lost a loved one. I will not call or contact any of the names on the list of fathers who have had to say their final good-byes to their sons or daughters. This is strictly voluntary. I would like the Gold Star dads to contact me to volunteer to have the name of their hero on one of the stars. The names do not have to be from the present conflict overseas.
Grief knows no time frame.
If you know of a Gold Star Dad who may be willing to participate, please contact me.