The Central Texas Veterans Memorial Committee installed a restored Willys M38A1 Jeep at the memorial on Friday, the latest piece of military equipment added to the commemorative site next to Brownwood Regional Medical Center.
The Jeep, which was produced during the 1950s and used in the Korean War, languished for years at the Brownwood Regional Airport before its recent restoration by Tommy Blevins and Harold Stieber.
Committee chairman Dr. Steve Kelly talked about the vehicle at the memorial on Friday. “The history of this Jeep is just amazing,” Kelly said. “It was out at the airport in a hangar, and it didn’t look anything like this.”
Stieber said the Jeep was painted like a Camp Bowie vehicle from that period. “It’s got the 36th Division markings,” he said. “I put all the stencils on it.”
Stieber said the Jeep had been sitting in a hangar next to his for 15 years. “I knew of the Jeep,” he said. “Flat tires, totally rusted up. They agreed to give us the Jeep to restore and put out here for permanent display. I rebuilt the Jeep, and Tommy agreed to paint the Jeep for us.”
The Memorial Committee also built a small pavilion to cover the vehicle and prevent weathering.
“It’s even got the exact right wheels on it,” Stieber said. “I had to go to an auction and find those because the ones that were on it were not proper.”
The men finally installed the Jeep on Friday morning.
Stieber said the Jeep had been originally donated by the National Guard to the City of Brownwood when former Guard commander Everett Pitts became airport manager. He said current airport manager Bobby Burks and Brownwood city manager Emily Crawford were “instrumental” in the Jeep’s acquisition.
The Jeep was installed just as The Moving Wall arrives in Brownwood for its weekend stay. On Friday, Marine Corps veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Robert O’Malley visited the wall to pay his respects to colleagues lost in Vietnam.
O’Malley, who lives in Goldthwaite, was honored for his heroism as a corporal on Aug. 18, 1965, when he came to the aid of a Marine unit under heavy fire and refused evacuation for himself despite being wounded several times. O’Malley had jumped into a trench full of enemy fighters and killed eight of them single-handedly.
O’Malley was the first Corpsman to receive a Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. He was flown to Austin on Air Force One where he received his Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Johnson on Dec. 6, 1966.