by Mitchell Kirk
A Logansport native serving in the marines was welcomed home Saturday by local businesses, citizens, family members and friends — who presented him with his restored classic car that was being worked on while he was overseas.
U.S. Marine Corps E4 Cpl. Braxton Eckelbarger, born and raised in Logansport, recently returned home from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina after finishing his second tour in Afghanistan.
More than 30 of Eckelbarger’s relatives and friends welcomed him with handshakes and hugs in the parking lot of NAPA Auto Parts Saturday morning where they presented him with his restored 1965 Ford Mustang, which had broken down on him shortly before he was shipped off for his second tour.
Through a project dubbed A Warrior’s Dream spearheaded by family friend Russell Anderson and supported by donations of local businesses and citizens, Eckelbarger’s car now has a rebuilt motor, rebuilt transmission and new brakes, audio system, seats, shocks and steering.
The 21-year old Eckelbarger has been a Marine for the last three and a half years, something he described as “a lifelong dream.”
“It feels good to be back,” he said, not minding the uncharacteristically chilly May morning. “It lets me know people really do care. They show it in different ways. It’s really nice. I really don’t know what to say, it feels really good.”
When the cover was lifted from the restored car, the feelings got even better.
“This speaks louder than words,” he said, beaming, adding he would often hear from his fellow service members that no one back home cared about what they were doing. “This proves that wrong.”
Anderson, who started working on the car in January with the assistance of his 11-year-old son Seth Roland and friend’s 15-year-old son Cameron Gebhardt, said it would not have been possible without help from the community.
“A lot of people from this community put in a lot of love and a lot of time,” he said.
Anderson said he didn’t know Eckelbarger much at all other than from seeing him and his family at the church they attend, Revolution Community Church, which is headed by Eckelbarger’s brother, Pastor Anthony Cozzello. He said he wanted to help fix Eckelbarger’s car to not only show him that he cares about his service, but that the entire community does as well.
“My outreach was, I didn’t want personal attention,” Anderson said. “I wanted him to see it wasn’t just one person, it was the whole community. I believe in this community. I believe in Logansport. It was an affirmation that we’re a tight-knit community, we do help each other.”
Terry Snyder, owner of NAPA Auto Parts in Logansport, recalled the day Anderson came in to tell him about the project.
“He was really pumped,” Snyder said. “He was talking a mile a minute.”
Snyder responded to Anderson’s proposal by offering to do some of the Mustang’s motor and transmission work at discount.
“He’s done a fantastic job,” Snyder said of Anderson. “He’s done something very great for this young man. It’s not every day someone comes along and wants to redo a classic car for you. It’s a very good feeling.”
Other local auto shops assisted with endeavor, including Dishon Transmission, Allen’s Stainless Exhaust and Osborn Auto & Trim. Several local businesses donated money toward the project as well.
“We’re so glad he’s home safe,” said the Marine’s mother, Joyce Eckelbarger, as he pulled out of the lot for a spin around the block. “We were praying for him every day. So many of the guys didn’t come home safe. I’m so glad he did.”
Eckelbarger’s car will be featured in The Joe Robison Memorial Car and Bike Show, which starts at 8 a.m. Saturday at Revolution Community Church, 3324 E. Market St. A free hog roast will be a part of the event as well.
Eckelbarger said he’s not sure whether or not he’ll be staying in the Marines or pursuing another career.
“No one wants me to stay in, but I like it a lot,” he said, adding that he’s still working on a decision.
Whatever he decides to do, he’ll be getting there in his 1965 Mustang.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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