JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii — Beneath the glistening chrome and flawless paint jobs of rows of cars and motorcycles, revving engines roared and throaty exhausts thrust vibrations through the ground at a Wounded Warrior Benefit Car Show outside the Navy Exchange near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Feb. 26, 2011.
The car show, organized by Marines from Aircraft Rescue Firefighting, Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, was held to honor and raise money for wounded Marines and sailors with Wounded Warrior Battalion West — Detachment Hawaii, on Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
“None of our wounded warriors should be forgotten,” said Cpl. Nathan Whitaker, a firefighter with ARFF who helped organize the event. “They are deploying, coming back hurt and giving up time from their families, so the least we can do is honor them by hosting this car show."
Touted as one of Hawaii’s largest ever, the car show featured 311 hot rods, imports, trucks and motorcycles entered by prior, retired or active duty service members, the general public and clubs such as 808 Camaro, Aloha Mustang, Corvette of Hawaii, Mopar Hawaii, The Rust Buckets and the Volkswagen Club of Hawaii.
“This car show gives us a chance to show the wounded warriors we support them,” said entrant John Eagle, a Navy Fleet Marine Force hospital corpsman who served on the USS Lexington and USS Yorktown from 1955 to 1963.
Coming on the heels of the completion of December’s 26.3-mile Honolulu Marathon by seven ARFF Marines, the car show was the second event the firefighters used to raise money for wounded warriors. For the second year in a row on Dec. 12, they completed the grueling marathon in boots, camouflage utilities, and over 70 pounds of gear and raised more than $2,000 for their cause.
“Our biggest reward was seeing the wounded warriors smiling and enjoying the show,” said Whitaker, from Burlington, Iowa. “I never thought the car show was going to be this big, but its success made the man hours and stressful nights of planning worth it.”
Surveying the show’s competition, wounded warriors from the detachment selected their top three vehicles, awarding customized "Wounded Warriors’ Choice" awards to the drivers of a 1969 Harley Davidson 900CC Ironhead motorcycle, a 1956 Chevy Truck, and a 1978 Pontiac Grand National.
“We like to see the support because it shows that people still care about us and what we’re doing,” said Lance Cpl. David Hawkins, formerly a scout sniper with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and now a wounded warrior with the detachment.
During a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom last September, Hawkins and two fellow Marines were injured when they were struck by a remote-controlled improvised explosive device.
“This is why I joined — to see events like this come together,” said Hawkins, from Parker, Colo.
After the last vehicle left the parking lot, the ARFF Marines counted a total of $6,349 raised for their wounded brothers-in-arms, bringing the amount from the marathon and car show to $8,418.
The Wounded Warrior Detachment will largely use the donation for family support, such as childcare emergencies due to doctor’s appointments, or purchasing plane tickets to reunite wounded warriors and their families, said Lt. Col. Gregory Price, officer in charge, Wounded Warrior Battalion West — Detachment Hawaii.
“We rely heavily on non-government support to help our wounded warriors and their families during their recovery and rehabilitation,” said Price, of Carlsbad, Calif. “There are already significant amounts of stresses in their lives, and this money will be used to minimize these stresses.”
Under a setting orange sun, white-haired former corpsman John Eagle, sat relaxed on the fender of his custom, yellow 1934 Ford Cabriolet, surveying the colorful collage of vehicles that filled the parking lot.
“Having been in the military, we know what these guys are going through,” said Eagle, from Ewa Beach. “Once you’ve been in the service, you don’t forget about the sacrifices our service members make."
He spoke slowly and calculatedly, each pause revealing a deeper meaning to his attendance at this car show.
“We want the wounded warriors to get better, no matter what the cost is to us,” Eagle said. “They’re pretty much all we’ve got, aren’t they?”
Amidst the dull roar of mechanic chatter, oldies music, and the occasional revving of an engine, his words faded into the falling darkness.