Remembering The Fallen



May 08, 2012

Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving the United States—people like 19-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Phillip Vinnedge. Before he left for war in 2010, Vinnedge told his parents how he planned to buy an old Chevy truck to restore when he returned home.  See how Julie and David Vinnedge decided to honor the sacrifice of their son and the 24 other Marines in his unit killed during their seven months in Afghanistan.       

Julie Vinnedge remembers her son talking for years about how, one day, he hoped to buy an old Chevy pickup that he and his father could work on and restore. 

“Phillip always admired the ’68 Camaro that his father had restored,” says Vinnedge, adding that her son was the sort of young man who always enjoyed a challenge. 

The events of 9/11 inspired Phillip to enlist in the Marines in 2009. He was on his first combat tour when, on October 13, 2010 just 16 days after arriving in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Lance Corporal Vinnedge died when the security vehicle he was riding in was blown up by a remote-denoted IED.  Three other Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment were also killed in the attack.

The 3/5, also known as the Dark Horse Battalion, would suffer the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the past decade of war. From September 2010 to April 2011, 25 Marines from the 3/5 were killed in action and 200 were wounded.

A Rolling Memorial

“Two weeks after he passed,” remembers Vinnedge, “Phillip’s father called into local St. Charles, Missouri, radio show to say he was looking for an old Chevy pickup as rust free as possible, and within an hour he received a phone call from a gentleman who had one he was thinking of selling.”

That truck—a 1951 Chevrolet 3100 with 28,000 original miles—was the starting point for a rolling memorial to Lance Corporal Vinnedge and his fellow Marines killed during those seven months of fighting in southern Afghanistan. 

“Phillip’s father, David, started by tearing the truck down to bolts,” says Julie Vinnedge. “The restoration started in January of last year and has had unreal support from the community, the local auto industry, and groups like the Patriot Guard Riders, a national motorcycle club whose members attend the funerals of U.S. armed forces members.” 

Since the “Fallen Hero’s Dream Ride” project began, Vinnedge has kept maintained a website and blog offering supporters weekly progress updates.  The final stages of the Chevy’s restoration included a military themed paint job, completed in April. 

“We hired an artist to paint one side of truck with an Afghanistan theme and the other reflecting Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery where Phillip is buried,” says Vinnedge. “The truck will also show the names and battlefield crosses of the other Marines killed during Phillip’s deployment.”

The finished truck will be unveiled this Memorial Day in Eureka, Missouri, at Six Flags St. Louis.  The Fallen Hero’s Chevy pickup will then be used to help promote organizations that have had an impact on Phillip's life, says his mother.  These include the Marine's Toys for Tots Foundation and the Missouri Military Memorial Foundation.

To find out more about the “Fallen Hero’s Dream Ride” project, please go to www.fallenherosdreamride.org. The Historic Vehicle Association would also like to see the vehicles, the restoration projects, and hear the old car stories of other members of the military currently serving overseas. Please log your comments below or, to upload pictures, head on over to the HVA’s Facebook page.    

 

Comments

  1. Sherri Kent Milledgeville, GA

    My husband, Hal, dreamed of owning a powerful and fast car during his two tours in Vietnam. His car was a 1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 2-door Hardtop with a Hemi engine. Hal and his family used the Bee as their daily driver for years. Never sold but eventually replaced by other cars/trucks through the years. Hal spent much love and time in the restoration of his Bee. After retiring, Hal dreamed of attending car shows so others could admire his Bee. Hal spent over 30 years in the military before being killed riding his bicycle in Mississippi. The Bee still waits for his care and love.

  2. Steve Clark PO box 54 North Salem, In.

    Sorry for loss of your son and the other soldiers who fought to protect our freedom. This story brought tears and anger. Our country should bring our troops home! What a nice way to honor and have an everlasting memory of these soldiers and sharing it with others. You are special people and I will keep you in my prayers.--Steve Clark

  3. Mike Moran Maine

    This terribly sad story of another soldier's life taken, essentially by government egos putting them in harms way for lies being told, is one of the MANY big reasons, "WAR IS SIMPLY WRONG". My heartfelt condolences to Phillip's family. What a wonderful tribute to him.

  4. Terry Nicholas, former Marine Sherman, Texas

    Sorry for your loss. this story brings a rush of emotion, knowing firsthand what a strong motivation memories of a car back home and a loving supportive family can be when you are in combat ! often these memories give the strength to get you through. Salute, and Semper Fi!

  5. Larry Detroit

    This makes me realize (no matter your politics) how lucky we all are to still live in a country that still has brave men and women that sign up for duty knowing the risks. My heart goes out to yours and all families at this time or anytime you live their dreams and memories. God Bless You and US.

  6. Larry B Detroit

    Thank you and your son for your loss and his sacrifice. Listen to a song by country artist David Ball called "Riding With Private Malone". I think you'll find it has some merit.

  7. DG Texas

    Get Some! Phillip, you and the other fallen Darkhorse brothers will never be forgotten. Your fellow 3/5 family will not allow it to happen, we did a lot of good over there and I pray your sacrifice will never be in vain. Your father seems like a real stand up guy who loved you very much and I also pray that this helps bring some sort of peace to your family. Rest easy in Heaven Marine, you've done your time in hell. Semper Fi brother, miss you and the others every single day. - Fellow Darkhorse Marine

  8. DG Texas

    Get Some! Phillip, you and the other fallen Darkhorse brothers will never be forgotten. Your fellow 3/5 family will not allow it to happen, we did a lot of good over there and I pray your sacrifice will never be in vain. Your father seems like a real stand up guy who loved you very much and I also pray that this helps bring some sort of peace to your family. Rest easy in Heaven Marine, you've done your time in hell. Semper Fi brother, miss you and the others every single day. - Fellow Darkhorse Marine