In our hearts we'd all like to think we're willing to help and show support of the U.S. troops who sacrifice so much for the freedoms we all enjoy. But somewhere between the desire to do the right thing and actually making the effort, a lot of us fall short. It's not that we don't appreciate those efforts, but sometimes the best ideas to give back seem to never leave the planning process.
But for one community, that's definitely not the case. John Hines started with a desire to do something nice for his stepson Sergeant Brian Douglass, who has been overseas in combat zones nonstop for years working as a dog handler. A Colorado native, Sgt. Douglass was born and raised in the Denver area and he reported to boot camp just days after graduating from Ralston Valley High School in 2003.
"I wanted to serve my country and do my part in the war," recalls Sgt. Douglass. "Time away from my family is my biggest challenge since I feel like I'm traveling nonstop. But doing my job in the places I want to go and working with the people that I get to work with has been the most rewarding part of my military career so far."
His first deployment was in 2005 to Iraq and he was serving his second deployment in Afghanistan when John Hines and his wife Jeanne thought of a way they could say thanks to their marine. The first step began when they talked with Chuck Howell, who manages Truck Transmission & Turbo in Wheat Ridge, Colo.
"The idea came up in a conversation with Chuck, I thought it would be really cool if we could create a network of companies that would want to thank a marine for his dedication and service by adding some performance pieces to his truck," says Hines, who also owns a diesel truck. "My initial thought was a chip and torque converter, but Chuck went crazy and thought it was a great idea."
The idea might have come from Hines, but it was Howell who went the extra mile to get this project off the ground.
"He mentioned to me that he would like to do something to thank his son for his service by upgrading his 1998.5 24V Dodge truck," recalls Howell. "So I decided to create an 'Over-Haulin' type of project using donations by local Colorado businesses to fund a surprise project build on the marine's truck that would be waiting for him upon his return to the U.S."
Howell contacted Hines about two weeks later and asked him to come by the shop. What Hines discovered is what he referred to as an "enormous list of parts" that Howell wanted to add to the truck. And at that point he made several phone calls to his list of customers and was able to put the rest of the project together.
Hines tricked his stepson into thinking his truck was being taken to the shop for routine repairs. Howell contacted companies and began collecting parts and donations to make the build happen. As the money and parts came together, Howell's team at Truck Transmission & Turbo upgraded the Dodge and prepared it for the surprise.
Performance With Style
Getting started, the rims headed off to Discount Tire to have tires mounted. Sgt. Douglass had mentioned a laundry list of things that he wanted to do with his truck if he ever got the money and while most of the work being done was focused on the overall performance, his family also wanted to send him down the road in style and the new Pro Comp Xtremes did the trick
As parts began to arrive at Truck Transmission & Turbo for the project, Howell was like a kid on Christmas morning as he tore into boxes, eager to work on this build.
A big boost in the surprise project came when Howell contacted ATS Diesel. ATS agreed to take part in the project and donated an Aurora 3000 Turbo Kit and ArcFlow intake manifold.
"We couldn't pass up the chance to make this truck really move," says Howell. "Brian mentioned before that he wanted to increase the power on the truck and the turbo kit and intake manifold will help a lot with increased air flow to complement any fuel delivery upgrades that may find their way onto the truck."
Once the upgrades were done and Sgt. Douglass arrived home from duty, he was brought to Truck Transmission & Turbo to discuss what was being "repaired" on his Dodge and what other maintenance items were needed.
Once inside Howell laid the big sales job on him and went through the entire catalog and described each of the parts at length. In detail the shop owner explained how each upgrade would make his truck run that much better.
"Chuck pulled out an ATS catalogue and began circling things that he recommended that I should do," recalled the marine. "Then he took me out to see the truck and on the way out he basically told me that everything that he'd circled in the catalogue was put on my truck. I was floored."
Howell led Sgt. Douglass out to the front of the shop to return his "stock" truck to him. About halfway out Howell turned to the marine and said, "Several companies in the area decided to thank you for your service to our country and provided enough support to put each of the parts that we just talked about on your truck. Thank you."
Just as he finished, the overhead door was raised and Project Brian was revealed to the speechless young marine. While Sgt. Douglass was staring at his truck, 70 to 80 of his friends and family snuck up behind him and started clapping their hands.
"I use my truck as my daily driver and I bought it to have a vehicle that had plenty of power, reliability and that I could drive for a long time," says Sgt. Douglass. "The upgrades obviously help in all of those categories. My dad always says, "Too much power is just about right."
The truck was fired up and Howell took out all of his frustrations on the rear tires. Sgt. Douglass had never been able to actually spin the tires on dry pavement before the transformation was completed, so it was everything he could do to stay on his feet. In fact, he had to use the building to help him stay upright.
Howell slid out of the truck, beaming like a proud papa as the smoke cleared and the tires returned to a normal temperature.
"Chuck pulled the whole thing together and made the build come together," said Hines. "He and his guys put their hearts into the project. The truck was an enormous success and on a scale of one to 10 I would have to give it an 11."
Chipotle Mexican Grill agreed to feed the whole crew during the reveal and as the afternoon drew to a close everyone in attendance realized what it really meant to be an American and the sacrifices that are made to keep our country free.
"Seeing the generosity of the companies and the people that donated to the project has renewed my faith in the American way of life," said Hines after the reveal. "None of these people knew who Brian or I were when they committed to making this happen."
Sgt. Douglass now has a truck that any marine would love to own and his goal is to put 1,000,000 miles on her.
"This horsepower addiction can be a very destructive sickness when not dealt with properly," says Hines with a smile. "I really hope Kacey [Mulder] is prepared for what could lie ahead. It is an affliction that I have had to keep in check for several decades. Sometimes and outbreak just can't be helped and new parts must be added to take care of the withdrawals."
But future upgrades are far from this marine's mind at this time. For now it's all about enjoying his performance diesel truck. At the end of the reveal, Sgt. Douglass was sent home to enjoy his new ride for a short time before his next tour of duty overseas, which he just learned will be in July.
Project Tribute Contributing Sponsors
Armbrust Pro Gym
4240 Kipling St # B
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
5293 Ward Road
Arvada, CO. 80002
Chipotle Mexican Grill
12550 West 64th Ave
Arvada, CO 80004
Colorado Window Systems
P.O. Box 1200
Brighton, CO. 80601
1080 South Depot Drive
Ogden, Utah 84404
L&H Auto Body
4790 Independence Street
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Mile High Tree Care
12205 W. 52nd Ave
Wheat Ridge, CO. 80033
286 Sawyer Drive # A
Durango, CO 81303
Truck Transmission & Turbo
4295 Kipling Street
Wheat Ridge, CO. 80033