Area nonprofit completes unfinished project for fallen soldier’s daughter

UVALDE, Texas (KWTX) Jerimiah Johnson was returning from a mission near Niger when he and his team were ambushed by Isis militants.

(Photo by Clint Webb.)

Staff Sergeant Johnson and four other Americans were killed.

His dreams of restoring an old truck for his 18 year old daughter could have died there with him in the harsh landscape of West Africa, but others couldn't accept that.

When Trinity Oaks advisory board member Garrett George first heard the story of how Staff Sergeant Johnson's family was struggling after his untimely death, he knew he could count on some big hearted Central Texans to help.

"This is a very patriotic state and we take pride we want to honor those who have sacrificed their lives and those who have served." he said from the Trinity Oaks headquarters at the Thumbtack Ranch near Uvalde.

Addie Johnson and her family gathered at the sprawling South Texas ranch for what they believed would be a Memorial Day celebration to, in part, honor her father.

She didn't know that she was in for the surprise of her life.

Seven months ago George visited with Addie and her family at their home in North Carolina to see how they could help.

One of the few things they mentioned was some repair work for Addie's 1996 Ford pick-up.

Staff Sergeant Johnson bought the the rust bucket for his daughter a month before his deployment.

He immediately started work on fixing the old truck up.

His goal was to transform it into reliable transportation for his daughter's first vehicle.

His time on earth ended before he could finish the project.

Addie mentioned to George that the ignition was sticky, there was a door panel missing and a couple of latches didn't work.

That was all she asked for.

What she got was much more than that.

"This is out of our scope. We provide outdoor therapy on our ranch for combat veterans, the youth, the terminally ill and gold star kids. But this was the right thing to do." George said.

George first got in touch with David Fincher, the owner of Fincher's Body Shop in Gatesville.

Fincher quickly agreed to handle all the necessary body work. "We owe them a lot. We had absolutley no trouble finding donations when we told them the story." Fincher said.

Fincher relayed the story to Bobby Jenkins who owns Poco Automotive in Gatesville.

The crew at Poco Automotive put in a new motor and transmission and went thru the old pickup to make sure it would be road worthy for years to come.

"New crate motor, transmission, brakes all the fluids and hoses, this will be like a brand new truck," he said.

As word of the project spread, others stepped forward to pitch in.

Raul Escobar who owns Rudy's One Stop Tire Shop in Waco dontated brand new tires and a detail job.

"I know it won't solve the problem but but hopefully it brings a little back to hopefully make her feel better," Escobar said.

On a typically warm spring day in South Texas, the small crowd watched in amazement as Sgt. Johnson's team members pulled up in not one, but two completely restored Ford pickups.

Addie also has a sister, Elisa, who recently turned 16 and would be in need of transportation herself.

"We contacted Hanner Chevrolet in Abilene and they said they had a very similar truck in great shape. They fixed it up and donated it." George said.

"I was nervous," he went on to say.

"Whenever you do something like this you have to be careful not to change too much because her daddy worked on this truck."

His apprehensions weren't necessary.

"It's perfect, I love it," Addie said.

"It's beyond perfect. I never could have imagined it looking like this."

Both trucks will shipped back to the families home and will hopefully be treasured for years to come.

When asked what she would think about while driving down the road Addie said simply, "My daddy, always my daddy."

Mission accomplished.

Trinity Oaks is a non-profit that mainly provides hunting and fishing trips for combat veterans, the youth, the terminally ill and the sons and daughters of fallen soldiers and first responders.