'America's Truck' Rolls On
By Jamie Reese
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2003 It has been two years since Ed and Tonie Negrin began touring the United States visiting military installations with their vehicles they have named "America's Truck Display." Their passion remains strong and their motive remains the same.
Ed and Tonie Negrin devote 20 percent of their business income to showing their support for America's service members. Here, they stand near one of "America's Trucks" that they displayed at the Pentagon. Photo courtesy of Ed and Tonie Negrin
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
On a new trip beginning this Thanksgiving, they plan to visit a number of military bases on the East Coast in their new truck, called "Defend America" covered in images symbolizing Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The itinerary is still being scheduled, but the Scottsdale, Ariz., couple plans to visit Camp LeJeune, N.C.; Norfolk, Va.; and Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, Ga. At each stop, they'll hand out shirts, books, compact discs of patriotic songs and other small gifts to show their continued support of American troops.
Negrin estimates he and his wife spend between $8,000 and $12,000 for each base they visit, budgeting between $130,000 and $140,000 for each overall trip. They set aside 20 percent of their gross business income for the project. They do not accept donations.
A photo gallery, including photos of the trucks, events and other resources, can be found at www.americastruck.net. The site also features a link titled Enduring Heroes, the couple's latest endeavor aimed at honoring fallen service members.
The Negrins said they want to create a card series named "Enduring Heroes" where they would produce a card with a formal picture on the front, a five- paragraph biography on the back, along with another inset picture of fallen service members.
"Our desire is to make a set of cards for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, but we are only going to produce a card if family members get in touch with us, send us photographs and say it's OK," he explained.
"The idea is that kids trade baseball cards, cards with musicians and wizardry, yet, the real heroes are these guys who are giving their lives in these conflicts, and most kids could not tell you the name of one person (who) has died in combat," Negrin said.
"We've gotten to know the stories and the names of individual people who have died, and we are not being morbid; instead, we want to celebrate the life and the courage of the person and share a story so that people will remember them," he said.
With a new trip, a new itinerary, new ideas and a new truck, the couple knows they'll encounter mixed responses during their journey. "On the bases, there is still a very open feeling toward the truck and toward what we are trying to do," he said. "Off base, however, we are getting more and more negative comments.
"I got an e-mail yesterday from someone who saw a picture of the new truck and was railing about how we shouldn't be (in Iraq)," he added. "The fact is that we are, and we need to support the folks (who) are there."
Negrin says this type of response won't deter them from continuing their visits with the troops. "As long as we feel that there's interest, we'll continue to do it," he said.
"We are thankful to live in a country where so many are willing to unselfishly serve," he said. "The very least we can do is be thankful and try to show our appreciation to the fighting men and women."