Helping those who need it most
By Scott Bowden, Contributing Editor, Parts Plus Magazine
Irony can be unfair at times. Just ask Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown of the United States Air Force.
Sgt. Brown, stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, is in charge of maintaining millions of dollars worth of Air Force vehicles, with responsibilities ranging from managing the deployment of 147 armed convoy missions in Iraq to coordinating one of the largest air shows in America.
Sgt. Brown was so devoted to fulfilling his military obligations while also raising four kids with his wife that he neglected his own car, which was left hanging by a wire – literally. For months, the battery terminals on Sgt. Brown's 1993 Nissan NX 1600 were held together by a coat-hanger wire. The NX had more than 200,000 miles on it, a fact made obvious by its squeaking brakes, worn tires, leaky gas tank, shabby interior and a hood that practically refused to open – assumedly out of shame. The situation worsened when one of the Browns' daughter totaled the family's other car while the sergent was on a tour of duty in the Middle East. After years of serving his country, Sgt. Brown needed someone to lend him a hand for once.
"He deserves a car that he can depend on because his country depends on him," wrote Jennifer Moore, a friend of Sgt. Brown's, in an emotional letter to the producers of the NASCAR Angels TV show. Parts Plus is a proud sponsor of the popular program, which is often described as Pimp My Ride meets Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. NASCAR developed the show with MagicDust Television not only to educate viewers about the importance of vehicle maintenance but also to portray local, independently owned shops and their technicians in a positive light, says Dennis O'Neil, the show's executive producer.
"We help reinforce the public's faith in their skills and capabilities," he says. "We're promoting the fact that if you take the time to find a good repair facility, you'll find that there are plenty of neighborhood shops out there you can trust with your vehicle."
Airpark Auto Service in Scottsdale, Ariz., built its reputation on trust, so owner Nadine Grobmeier and her team jumped at the chance to help a local Air Force sergeant. Nadine is active in several area charities, including the Packages from Home program, which delivers care packages to U.S. troops overseas. Airpark Auto Service serves as a drop-off location for the program, with the public – including many of their customers – donating goods to the troops.
A quick inspection of Sgt. Brown's vehicle revealed that while the shop would be able to finish the necessary repairs, the required extensive bodywork would make it a near impossibility to reveal the finished car on time to Sgt. Brown and the TV cameras. Instead, Nadine did something even better: She called John Lundin, fleet manager at the local Courtesy Chevrolet dealership, who helped secure a 2001 Oldsmobile Alero to provide to Sgt. Brown. Still, the Olds needed work.
While Sgt. Brown was cruising around Phoenix International Raceway with driver Kenny Wallace, Nadine's own pit crew of Joe Knott, Mike Lundston, Alan Jensen and Tam Ngo replaced the struts, wheel bearings, air-conditioning compressor and radiator, installed a new set of Goodyear Tires and NASCAR Victory Wheels as well as a new Exide battery, and changed the oil filter, with some of the parts supplied by Tri-City Automotive Warehouse, the Network WD in Tempe, Ariz. Kustom Koachworks donated their manpower, performing bodywork and touching up the nicks and scratches on the 2001 Alero to make it appear as it just rolled off the showroom floor.
Sgt. Brown's two boys spent a day with NASCAR Angels host Shannon Wiseman, shopping for camping equipment at Cabela's. Co-sponsor Lay's picked up the tab. Sgt. Brown received his new wheels, as more than 60 members of the 56th LRS unit from Luke Air Force Base cheered.
"No one's ever done anything like this for me," Sgt Brown said. "It's beyond words...it really is."
All in a day's work at Airpark Auto Service.