Operation Enduring Freedom Army veteran Matt Kelly signs the exterior of a rebuilt 1957 Chevrolet pickup to honor fallen service members during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The vintage vehicle is currently on a 50-stop tour to give veterans the opportunity to autograph the truck. The ’57 Chevy stopped at the Fort Myer Post Exchange July 2. Photo by Jim Dresbach5

Souped-up memorial visits joint base

A mechanized monument to men and women of the military who lost their lives protecting the United States of America visited the Fort Myer Post Exchange July 2.

While the refurbished 1957 Chevrolet 3200 pickup truck gathered a steady stream of attention, it continued to accumulate signatures from former Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen. Veterans visiting the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall PX were invited to add their names onto the ’57 Chevy.

The 50-stop Remembering our Heroes signature tour was the brainstorm of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom Air Force veteran Floyd (Rick) Beech, who rescued the truck from a North Carolina goat farm and refurbished the vintage Chevy to honor service members lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We started the tour on June 12 at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida,” Beech said. “We plan to (tour) 18 states, 35 military installations and several invited events where we intend to showcase the truck. We built it to honor and memorialize our military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.”

The tour included local stops on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, the State Department in Washington, D.C., and the Annapolis Independence Day parade.

While obtaining signatures on the ’57 Chevy truck, Beech has a rhyme or reason on who signs the exterior and where a signature is placed.

“(The signatures are) split down the middle,” Beech said. “One side has signatures from Iraqi Freedom (service members) and the other side has names from Afghanistan. The dashboard is reserved for Medal of Honor recipients to sign. The doors are reserved for wounded warriors to sign. They sign in gold pen.”

Beech said an average of 40 signatures with an oil-based paint pen are added at each stop.

Crunching the numbers on how many vintage Chevy pickups have survived is unclear. General Motors built close to 5 million 1955-1957 Chevys; survival estimates of the iconic trucks vary. Some car experts think 50,000 remain while other estimations explain the survival rate is close to the quarter million mark.

Following the tour, Beech hopes to donate the truck to a museum.

Pentagram Staff Writer Jim Dresbach can be reached at jdresbach@dcmilitary.com.