Des Moines -- July 27, 2010 was the day Lance Cpl. Brandon Carroll’s life changed forever.
“The bullet that went through me came out my chest and went through the buddy that I was carrying, went through his arm pit and across his chest and out. From that point on it’s kind of a blur what really happened,” Carroll recalled.
It happened during Carroll’s first tour of duty in Afghanistan. Seven of his fellow Marines were killed. Less than a year later, Carroll was out of the hospital and back in the thick of it. He explained, “I went back and that (time) I actually stayed the whole deployment.”
But now, he’s back for good. He settled into a decent job, earning a decent living burying fiber optic cable and “what if’s?” Carroll explained, “There’s (sic) times when you just miss the guys that are gone and no longer here, and you’re like, ‘Man, I wonder what we’d be doin’ right now if they were here.’”
A couple of months ago, Carroll’s car broke down. He told his case worker at the Des Moines VA Hospital that he was forced to hitch a ride to work with a friend. Word got out, and now Brandon is the proud recipient of the gift of transportation.
The 1977 Ford F-150 was built in Detroit, and painstakingly reborn in Des Moines. The man who donated it said, “I figured there was nothing better I could do with the truck than to give it to somebody that was so deserving.” Larry Schincke explained that he was listening to KGGO Radio, when he heard the DJ, Clutch, talking about Carroll’s predicament.
Larry gave the truck to the veterans charity Operation First Response. OFR’s PJ Sesker-Green got the truck in the hands of Curtis Mayfield at Scotty’s Body Shop on University Ave., and Mayfield said that’s when they realized what they were working with, “The hood latch broke in half on us, in our hands.”
Mayfield said they had no choice, but to properly restore the vehicle. He started making phone calls and asked local businesses to donate time, materials, and talent. Every single one of them said, “Yes.” “Oh, gosh, the list goes on and on," Mayfield said. “It’s just been an amazing team of people that have stepped up.”
It took a few weeks, but the team of 16 local businesses and individuals managed to give the truck a new interior, Line-X paint, touches of air brush art, a new stereo system, exhaust, glass, wheels and tires, exhaust, and to refurbish the 400 cubic inch Ford big block engine.
When it was finished, the rough looking dessert sand color truck with black trim and patriotic accents appeared to have served alongside Carroll overseas. The team managed to personalize it for a total stranger. “Never met (Carroll),” Mayfield said. “Actually, he could walk in here right now and I wouldn’t know.”
Carroll’s reaction at his surprise reveal at Scotty’s said it all.
“I’m speechless.” He added, “Words can’t describe it. It’s an amazing truck. It’s a gives me the ability to go to the appointments I need to to the VA, get to work and not worry about, ‘Well how am I going to get to work the next morning?’”
Carroll was perhaps most sincere when he said, “I also want to say ‘thank you’ because you’re not just supporting me. You’re supporting every one of my brothers that are out there that are serving currently, and I’m just grateful for the time you took to put this truck together and it looks amazing."
Sesker-Green reassured Carroll, “You are so worth it.”
Sesker-Green and Operation First Response were the project’s catalyst. OFR fills veterans’ immediate needs. Sometimes it’s paying a utility bill, a month’s rent, or sometimes it’s food.
Anyone can make a $5 to OFR by texting “OFR” to 20222. Sesker-Green asks that people learn more at operationfirstresponse.org, and that Iowans support these local businesses that support OFR:
The Donor List: Scotty’s Body Shop, Line-X, Earl’s Tire, Ford and Garland, Iowa Muffler and Brake, Pioneer, DMACC Ankeny Campus Auto Electric, Iowa Auto Top, Kryger Glass, Flatt Tire, Total Truck, Mid Iowa Sales, Best Window Tint, Schneider Graphics, Shawn Palek, American Dream Machines, 95 KGGO, mycharitylife.com