DEARBORN - Veterans Day was just a couple of weeks ago, but the pride and honor of Ford employees who are veterans showed recently when a specially painted Raptor pickup made the rounds of three southeast Michigan plants. “Operation Raptor” kicked off a two-year tour of America by visiting Romeo Engine, Dearborn Truck (DTP) and Dearborn Tool and Die (DTD).
“Being a veteran myself, I take a lot of pride in celebrating this day (Veterans Day) yearly with all of our veterans here at Romeo Engine Plant,” said Randy Lashbrook, UAW chairman, Romeo Engine Plant.
“It is very interesting to me to listen to everyone’s experiences while serving this great country. We had our only purple heart recipient (A.C. Richardson) speak of his war time service. On behalf of the UAW here at Romeo were honored to host the Navy Seals Raptor and we thank everyone for their service,” said Lashbrook.
The mission and goal of Operation Raptor is to have a dynamic platform that can be used at a variety of military, sports and outdoor functions, along with Ford dealerships and community events to raise awareness and funds for critically injured Special Forces soldiers and their families.
“It is a privilege for me to represent Local 400 in paying tribute to a special group of Americans, our Veterans. We are not just co-workers of the Ford family and fellow union brothers and sisters, we are soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and most importantly, the reason we stand free today as a nation within a world of darkness and danger,” said Local 400 Vice President Johnny Verellen.
The Husky Liner’s Navy SEAL Raptor is the first Ford Raptor to be released in the series. The Special Forces Raptors will tour across the country during 2014-2015 employing critically injured Special Forces Veterans who will interact with the public, explaining their service and the obstacles they face as critically injured disabled veterans. The Ford plants were the first stops on its tour.
There will be a total of six 2013 Ford Raptors that will be airbrushed by renowned artist Mickey Harris. The themes will honor each of the five Special Forces Units:
• Navy SEALs
• Army Special Forces
• Army SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment)
• Air Force Commandos
• MARSOC: Marine Corps Special Operations Command
The sixth truck will help support Special Forces K-9s that are retired from active duty and continue to serve as support dogs for civilians or assigned to live with veteran families as pets. The money raised will help benefit the K-9 Warrior Dog Foundation, a non-profit.
All six Raptors will be auctioned off after the last tour date in 2015. Donations that are made to the program benefit charities that support each part of the Special Forces.
• Green Beret Charitable Trust
• MARSOC Foundation
• Air Force Commando’s Association
• Phoenix Patriot Foundation
• Warrior Dog Foundation
The trucks are owned by America’s Fallen Heroes. Since 2005 they have volunteered their time around the country with veterans’ projects supporting WWII veterans to current conflicts, such as the Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. They have been involved with the U.S. Special Forces since 2006.
The Raptor that was on display at DTD, DTP and Romeo was the Navy SEALs Raptor. It took two full months to airbrush the scenes on the Raptor, depicting 70 years of Navy SEALs’ history. All of the airbrushing has been created from actual historical photos.
“The Navy’s choice of our Ford Raptor Truck is indicative of our workforce, top notch. Go get ‘em Navy!” said Nick Kottalis, DTP UAW president and chairman.
Many plant employees were surprised at the precision of the airbrushing. And some were proud that American Fallen Heroes chose the Ford Raptor truck.
“It is an excellent truck and an excellent choice to represent the Navy SEALs with a Raptor. Every Navy SEAL should be proud to drive it,” Monte Wall, UAW Veterans co-chair, Dearborn Truck Plant. Monte also served in the Army for seven years during Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
“Great tribute to the Navy Seals Team,” said Kyle Crandall, tool maker , Dearborn Tool and Die Plant. Crandall served six years in the U.S. Navy. He was stationed on the USS Birmingham (SSN-695). His step-son is currently serving in the U.S. Army and has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The donations made from the tour of this specific Raptor and the auction will help benefiting critically injured veterans, like Bo Reichenbach. He is a U.S. Navy SEAL who was injured in the line of duty July 2012. Reichenbach, 25, is a double-leg amputee and is currently receiving treatment at the Walter Reed Medical Center. He is married with a 5-year-old son.
“This truck brings awareness to the fact that if the war ended tomorrow, there is still a battle back home to help take care of the troops,” said Mat Arnaudo, safety engineer, Rouge Site, and an Iraq veteran who served in the U.S. Army.
“It makes me appreciate and respect my country more and more each day. To see Bo go through what he did and to also see the photo of him and his son next to him was very emotional,” Aaron Hughes, chassis assembler, Dearborn Truck Plant.
If you would like to donate to help pay for a handicap accessible house for Reichebach , a collection is being take to build in the summer 2014, please email: Randy@USAFallenheroes.com. So far $92,000 has been raised toward the goal of building the house in the past two months.
You also can support Operation Raptor by going to www.RocketHub.com and making a donation in any amount by typing in NAVY SEAL RAPTOR and donating to the program. That donation will pay for the cost of the FORD RAPTORS and the overhead cost to airbrush the trucks so that we may fund OPERATION RAPTOR.
From left to right: Jenny Torony – DTP HR Manager and Nick Kottalis, DTP UAW President/Chairman.
“I am at a loss for words,” said Dennis Lloyd, Plant Engineering at DTD. Dennis served four years in the U.S. Navy as a submarine qualified on the USS-Annapolis.
“Great tribute to those who served our country,” said Todd Lemire, Cutter Grinder at DTD.
Jeremiah “AC” Richardson: Romeo’s only Purple Heart Recipient posing with the Navy Seals Raptor
Paul Edds, Romeo HR Manager, Randy Lashbrook, Plant Chairman and Shawn Stewart, Romeo Plant Manager standing in front of the Navy Seals Raptor with a check for $2500 to American Fallen Heroes
Members of the UAW Local 400 posing in front of the Navy Seals Raptor
Side shot of the Raptor