Rural Missouri - November 2013 - (Page 14)

Three Missouri Guardsmen pay homage to fallen citizen soldiers with a ROLLING TRIBUTE TO FREEDOM Jim Schulte, front right, with help from his friends Norb Bax, left, and Jim Kempker, transformed his 1979 Chevy pickup into the "Minuteman," which is dedicated to the nine Missouri Guardsmen who have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2006. The vehicle is more than ceremonial, transporting wounded warriors during special hunts. P by Jason Jenkins arked under an elm tree in the backyard, the old Chevy pickup had been put out to pasture. If you listened closely at night, you could practically hear it rusting away. Its days as a productive farm vehicle seemingly were in its rearview mirror. But Jim Schulte had different plans for his fatherin-law's old truck. He could see through the 3/4-ton Chevy's faded red paint, its pitted chrome and rusted out fenders. Beneath the assortment of dents and dings, he believed an engine could still roar. "Initially, I thought it'd be a toy for the farm," says the Callaway Electric Cooperative member from New Bloomfield, who enlisted help from his friends, Jim Kempker and Norb Bax, to transform the fourwheel-drive truck. "And then I went on a wounded warrior hunt." What began as an after-hours project for three friends quickly evolved into a labor of love as this trio of current and former Missouri National Guardsmen embarked on a mission of greater significance. The truck, which they have dubbed the "Minuteman," memorializes the nine guardsmen who have been killed in action in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2006. Schulte, who retired earlier this year as the state command sergeant major, the top enlisted position in the Missouri National Guard, first envisioned turning the 1979 Chevy into a military-style rock-crawling vehicle. The truck's frame needed to be shortened, however, so he took it to his friend, Jim Kempker, in the fall of 2011. A machinist from Jefferson City who works full time at the Missouri Guard's maintenance shop, Kempker cut 30 inches from the frame rails. By early 2012, Schulte and Kempker were joined by Norb Bax, another friend and retired Missouri Highway Patrol and Missouri Guard mechanic. Each Tuesday night after work, the men would gather at Kemp- 14 ker's home garage and work on the the transmission shifter, while a dummy pinetruck, which was nothing more than apple grenade serves as the knob on the transfer a rolling chassis to begin. case shifter. Ammo boxes double as armIn March 2012, a few months into rests between the front seats. The most New * the project, Schulte went on a hog hunt in important feature of the Minuteman, Bloomfield however, are the dog-tag-shaped plates Arkansas organized for wounded warriors. commemorating Missouri's citizen The off-road utility vehicles the huntsoldiers who have been killed in action ers employed weren't well suited for the during the war on terrorism. terrain, nor were they comfortable for the "The goal is to honor those guys who veterans. The experience gave Schulte all paid the ultimate price, to never let them be forgotthe inspiration he needed for the Minuteman. ten," Schulte says. "That's what we're doing now is "When I came back from that, I said, 'Alright getting it out in public to honor them." guys, now we have a mission. I know what we're Since completing the Minuteman this March, going to do with this thing,'" Schulte says. "That's Schulte and his friends have put it to work. He when we really got serious. When we decided to volunteered the vehicle's services during another dedicate it to the nine guys killed in action, it took Arkansas hog hunt for wounded warriors, and it's on a life of its own." appeared in a car show and several parades. Schulte The truck received a complete engine and transsays he plans to drive the Minuteman in the Vetermission overhaul. They replaced all the seals; rebuilt ans Day parade in Florissant this month. the carburetor, alternator and power steering pump; "We all feel pretty blessed," Schulte says. "We've and added new brakes, brake lines, fuel lines and a had good careers. We're all healthy. This is just a new fuel cell to replace the old gas tank. way to give back to those who weren't as fortunate "We took the transfer case out, took both the because any one of us could be in that position." front and rear ends all apart," says Bax, a member While they haven't formed a non-profit or charof Three Rivers Electric Cooperative. "Mechanically, itable organization, Schulte and his wife, Janelle, pretty much everything was redone." are working toward offering their own hunts for The Chevy's original firewall and dash were wounded warriors. They recently purchased property reused, and other friends contributed a few parts, adjacent to their Callaway County farm and are renincluding the brush guard for the front end. Because ovating a cabin to accommodate disabled veterans. they didn't have a pipe bender, they bought two Beyond their own careers, Schulte and Kempker wrecked dune buggies and repurposed portions of have another reason to support the Missouri Guard. the frames for the Minuteman's skeleton. While Their sons, Greg Schulte and Aaron Kempker, are they had ideas on how to make the vehicle safe and both guardsmen actively serving in Afghanistan. comfortable while transporting wounded warriors "I pray every day that neither one of us puts our during hunts, there were no written plans to follow. sons' names or any other sons or daughters on the "We were trying to build something out of thin side of the Minuteman," Schulte says. "Let's all say a air," says Kempker, also a Three Rivers Electric memprayer that we don't add any more names." ber, who did nearly all the welding. "Sometimes, it left us at a dead end, and we'd have to come back For more information about the Minuteman vehithe next week and change something." cle, you may contact Jim Schulte at 573-295-6820 or Small, decorative touches help add to the cle's military theme. A working bayonet is affixed to WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - November 2013

Rural Missouri - November 2013
White mules and family wine
Helping our neighbors
A rolling tribute to freedom
Out of the Way Eats
Big man from a small town
Hearth and Home
Best of rural Missouri
Salvaging history
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - November 2013