July 16th, 2015. A date which lives with me and all of us. It was a day in which our world changed.
GYSGT Thomas Sullivan – Didn’t deserve to die
SSGT David Wyatt – Didn’t deserve to die
SGT Carson Holmquist – Didn’t deserve to die
LCPL Squire ”Skip” Wells – Didn’t deserve to die
P02 Randall Smith – Didn’t deserve to die
These men gave their lives for our freedoms in Chattanooga.
The Fallen 5, as they have been named, represent of any members in the military past or present. There are many military bases across the country and world that could be attacked. It could have been you or me. I cannot change the past or bring these men back to life. I can however, keep their memory alive and keep the drive alive. I wanted to do something so profound that would honor them in the best way possible.
I felt such compassion and frustration after the attack. I wondered what I could do. 30 Days after the attack I made the Fallen 5 Drive mission a dream to set out for the Golden Gate Bridge with a flag from the shooting site. I did it one year later leaving from the riverfront memorial service 1 year later on July 16th, 2016. Daniel (a Marine from that unit) and I left for a 5,000 mile mission to honor the Fallen 5. We completed the mission by hanging a flag from the bridge and brining it back home.
The purpose of the mission is to sacrifice personally, and honor them in our acts. The years since the attack I have seen Chattanoogans come together in their own ways. Some ride Harleys, some run, some wave flags, some put stickers up, some donate money, some cry. I drive 5,000 miles with a folded flag. I tell their story all year long. I drive everywhere with their memory on my truck. It has taken quite a toll on my and this year has been difficult.
This year I will run 5 miles from the Naval Base to Veterans’s Bridge in Chattanooga with the flag on July 16th, 2020 starting at 10:30 AM. I will fly it the whole way while I run. I will run along Amnicola Hwy to the bridge to raise awareness and honor them. Later in the year I am planning to visit each family in their hometown and talk about the missions I have been on in their honor. I have another huge plan, but I am flushing out some details. Stay tuned for the drive/run update this year! I will need your moral support! I am not a runner and will push through it! God Bless the FALLEN 5.
This morning’s sunrise was especially beautiful! The morning changed from dark, to a light orange and pink sky which shone brighter as the day awoke. The buzz and roar of life began and another day started for the Fallen 5 Drive.
I was quite sore by this time since I was not prepared to run and sleep in hard places. Doing a new physical fitness program combined with sleeping on the ground and vehicles was a new level of soreness for me. Despite the soreness, stretching and a little ibuprofen went a long way.
After a few days of being in the streets, we realized there were more needs beyond food and water. We began planning a list of hygiene items we could purchase and put together and pass out for people. In addition to giving food we wanted to provide a level of care in which people could feel more comfortable.
For food we planned on cooking eggs scrambled with cheese and wrapping into a burrito. We got 60 eggs, 40 tortillas, and a couple pounds of cheese. We picked up another 4 cases of water to pass out as it was going to be hot for the next few days. It was quite a bit of work as we cooked, wrapped, and packaged the food. As we drove around passing out water and food, we asked what more needs were and so we planned to make a trip to the store for toothpaste, toothbrushes, wipes, band aides, alcohol pads, and other items.
By now I began to recognize certain people and they knew us as well. Often as I drove around town, my new friends would wave or say hi! It felt good to be doing good for others. The opportunity to do good for others is possible if we simply choose to do something. This simple mission has created so much joy and value. It was a great day to honor the Fallen 5!
I am getting the truck rolling again for the Fallen 5 Drive mission for 2019!
After recovering from being rear-ended by a car in the blazer, I have a new purpose and mission. Watch the video for more updates! Stay tuned as we ramp up for 2019’s Fallen 5 Drive! Thank you for your support! Like and share this page and video to support the Fallen 5 Drive!
Waking up on day 4 was amazing. Mack and I survived the cold wind and rain and I felt refreshed. Honestly, I believe the good sleep was from not getting any the night before. Also, seeing the Rocky Mountains is very reviving in the morning. After taking some pictures and saying our goodbyes, we departed for the nearest coffee shop to wake up more and get some internet.
As I sat there staring out at the mountains I couldn’t help but think about which one was Pikes Peak. I then researched it, mapped out the distance, calculated my fuel loads, time for the day’s travel, and calculated the risk of climbing Pikes Peak in the World’s First 5 fueled truck! The fastest Pikes Peak climb record in a vehicle was reset in 2018 so I figured I’d make another record in 2018. The difference between me and Volkswagen is that I set a world record in a vehicle that was self-built from a passion for doing good for others with essentially no media coverage and very small funds…and I’m just one American dude who designed and built the World’s first 5 fueled truck to make a statement and hopefully an impact?
Anyway, despite the risks of breaking down, starting on fire, driving off the mountain, and the lost time from the drive up the mountain, I decided to do it! I made sure my fuel tanks were about half full for natural gas and propane. I only put 10 gallons of gasoline in the Blazer of Glory back in Chattanooga, so I didn’t really need any gasoline. I knew going up I would use natural gas as far as I could, then switch to propane when it started losing power or running rough. As we ascended in elevation I kept a close eye on all my computers and fuel trims. I knew that this would be the most challenging tune of my life driving up Pikes Peak.
Somewhere about halfway up, the natural gas was not happy. It needed more air per fuel ratio and as we drove up there was less air, less power, and the engine was not performing at 100%. I could have kept tuning on natural gas, but I switched to propane and restarted our journey to the top. Once on propane the truck was much happier although I would continue tuning the whole drive up, leaning out the fuel mixture to make sure the engine was running great!
As I climbed higher and higher it got colder and windier. I ended up wearing all my coats and hats to keep warm as it was in the 70’s just a few moments earlier. This is why Pikes Peak is so challenging – the vast change in climate and elevation makes it very difficult to get a car perfectly tuned to race up. As I tuned I drove and that’s when I saw them: 2 Ford Model T’s driving up Pikes Peak together! It was an amazing moment for me as these trucks were innovative for their time, are convertibles like mine, and were still driving so well they could climb Pikes Peak. I felt the importance of the mission and my purpose for the truck. I am taking the memory of the Fallen 5 with me wherever I go and I feel they and God are watching over me on the trip especially when things go wrong. They also seem to create moments such as following these 1925 Ford Model T’s up Pikes Peak, then to park right next to them and compare almost 100 years of automotive technology. How amazing!
After getting too cold and excited it was time to head back down! For this decent Mack and I enjoyed ourselves on the mountain taking in the views, the moment, and capturing photos/video to share. We stopped 2 times to cool our brakes, raised the solar panel to become an aero-brake, drove through a snow-storm, and ate a bit of lunch about ½ way down. After finally getting off the mountain and back on the road it was already 4:00 pm – much later than I anticipated.
As the sun was setting we drove through the Rocky Mountains at almost the same time as last year. Some places were cooler than others we experienced in the openness of the truck. At this point the changes in elevation, temperature, or weather seem to have little affect on my comfort. Mack and I were used to being outside on our 4th day.
After calculating my mileages, fuel loads, fuel stations, and time I set a destination of Salt Lake City, UT. Driving into the night is unpredictable since you don’t actually know how far you can mentally or physically make it. Setting goals and making the mileage no matter the hour is vital to this mission’s success. Sometime after driving countless miles I began thinking about companies and other stops I could make to have a greater impact on others and to honor the Fallen 5.
I researched Ready Gunner in Orem, UT and Black Rifle Coffee Company in Salt Lake City, UT to plan where I would wake up. I chose to sleep at Ready Gunner since I love guns and coffee so what better than to wake up at a coffee / gun shop owned by veterans! The only problem was that I hadn’t had a shower in 4/5 days and I drove so long that when I got to Orem, UT the sun was coming up. I quickly stopped in a Flying J to take my much needed first shower of the trip before arriving at Ready Gunner.
Mack and I were quite tired so I made some shade from one of our American flags and tucked into my sleeping bag. I woke up maybe 2 hours later as the sun rose over the Utah mountains! It was epic! And so calming.
On July 16th I drove the Blazer of Glory all over Chattanooga, TN and to Ringgold and Rossville, GA. The community support was amazing! People always waive, honk, and give the thumbs up. It makes me so proud to be a rolling, living, memorial to the Fallen 5. I visited all of the memorial sites dedicated to the Fallen 5 on July, 16th and paid my respects. It was an honor to travel and see all the supporters in the city while in the Blazer of Glory.
I have delayed the departure of our trip to July 30th due to mechanical failure in the rear differential in the Blazer of Glory. Over the course of building the roll cage and rear bumper at Hudlow Axle in the week leading up to leaving, I noticed a small leak and drip from the pinion seal. Sometimes this can be fixed by simply changing the seal, or in this case it needed to be rebuilt. On July 16th I arrived at Hudlow Axle to repair the seal; I changed the outer pinion bearing and crush sleeve in hopes of fixing the problem.
Steve Hudlow, the owner of Hudlow Axle, is one of our supporting sponsors and allowed me to fabricate the roll cage using his tubing bender. His company which I work for several years ago specializes in differentials, gears, driveshafts, transfer cases, and many other specialized drive train services. After driving the Blazer of Glory on July 16th with the intent to leave that day, it was becoming a realization the truck would need a rebuild on the rear differential.
Luckily, I was in good hands again at Hudlow Axle with parts and tools. I performed intense surgery on the Blazer of Glory on July 18th replacing the bearings and races in the carrier and on the pinion. The main gear ratio is 3.73 with open differential carriers. The gear set was certainly worn as well; basically, everything was worn out in the differential in the 46 year old truck! So after replacing the bearings, the pinion seal, and oil I drove the truck some more. The rear differential is a little loud and the overall reliability of the parts is questionable at this point since the truck needs to be test driven more. It blew a faulty pinion seal on the way home from Rossville last night.
Blazer of Glory Maintenance
The best plan for making the mission a success without being stranded is to delay the trip a couple weeks and test the truck. I am disappointed, however the truck is a machine and machines break down. We are lucky to have discovered the worn parts before leaving! I will keep you posted on our progress and thank you for our support!