America Loves You

Jay Leno Surprises a Wounded Veteran With A New Car
If you have been following Garagistry's blog for any period of time, you know we believe Jay Leno is among those we refer to as "Caretakers" who makes our hobby fulfilling and exciting. We re-published a number of Jay's videos from the his garage as he fulfills a wonderful position as a role model for anyone preserving and protecting the legacy of classic automobiles.

But - that's not why we are featuring Jay today. Leno exhibited why he is a patriot and humanitarian for our troops in an NBC News story which went viral today. His role as an entertainer for our troops is well known, and deservedly praised - he may well be among the select number of entertainers considered to be considered as the next "Bob Hope" for our troops. 

We believe, behind every classic car there is a great story. At the encouragement of Al Roker when they were visiting the troops, Leno decided to go beyond the customary and do something illustrating his personal appreciation for the troop's service to our nation that created a great story of it's own.

"We took all these wounded warriors and did a sort of a lottery, reached in and picked a solider at random (to) do something for him and hopefully it expresses what we what to do for all the soldiers" Leno said.

Lady Luck smiled on Corporal Ethan Laberge, stationed with the 101st Airborne at Ft. Campbell, KY; his name was chosen from among all entries. 

Laberge was on foot patrol in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber approached his patrol then detonated his explosives. Laberge was seriously wounded; "I had shrapnel through my foot into my left knee and I had a hole in the back of my left leg. I had a superficial wound above my right knee; and I had shrapnel that went into my arm, broke off the end of my radius, broke a couple of bones in my wrist and essentially shattered my thumb". In addition to his physical injuries, he also suffered traumatic brain injury which has been causing memory problems. But Laberge survived. Two of his comrades with him on that patrol were not as fortunate and died of their injuries.
Leno, 64, said when he meets many soldiers, most barely out of their teens, he finds they and he are often world's apart. But it was their mutual love of cars that formed a common bond for Leno and Laberge. With a camera crew filming, Leno took Laberge and Sgt. Clinton Lien on a tour of a local muscle car garage, where they examined several well-conditioned muscle cars. At a point, Leno told Lebarge he has a special car with him and wondered if Laberge was interested in seeing it. Moment later, Leno roars into the area with a new $59,995 (MSRP) Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. The SRT Hellcat is the most powerful production muscle car, producing 707 horsepower, and rides the roads like a rocket on wheels.
Offering Laberge an opportunity to go for a ride, Lebarge responds with a "Hell Yeah!", and off they go for a tour of the rural roads surrounding Fr. Campbell. At one point in the filming, Leno simply blows by a parked Sheriff's Dept patrol car which never moved. We suspect the deputy on patrol was either overwhelmed by Leno's presence - or he knew he'd never catch the Hellcat.... having the scene pre-approved for their filming isn't being realistic...

While touring, Leno and Lebarge stopped for lunch and Laberge had an opportunity to tell Jay his story and experiences.  "Where I'm sitting now, I don't know exactly how well I'll recover", he told Leno. In the end, Leno and Lebarge return to the garage area where Leno asked Labarge how he enjoyed the ride.  

"That was awesome... I wouldn't mind having one of these."

Jay handed Laberge the keys, saying "It's yours, America love you. Thank you, buddy. Have lots of fun and don't get any tickets."
"I can't promise that." was Laberge's reply.
Our takeaway thoughts are simple: 

 Jay Leno is among those we consider icons in the classic car hobby.  His generosity is well-known and we thank him for what he has done for the troops, our hobby and our lives in general with his humor.

Thousands of veterans are dealing with the aftermath of their service. Some have visible wounds and injuries, others hurt on their inside. Whenever possible, give our Veterans a break by thanking them for their service, hiring the vet when you have a job opening, or being a sincere and sympathetic ear to listen as they verbalize their emotions on their path back to civilian life.

The mutual benefits will be incredible - the veteran heals and resumes their life faster and easier, and you'll simply feel better for it. Our hobby will be better for it too.