It all started with an innocuous query from a young Marine. Late last fall, members of Orange County Vettes, one of at least a dozen Corvette clubs based in Southern California, were participating in a "Troop Appreciation Day" car show at Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine Corps base located along the coast on the north edge of San Diego County. One of the Marines was admiring the lineup of shiny Corvettes and asked an OC Vettes member if it would be possible to get a T-shirt with the club's logo, then added, "Anything with a touch of home."
No one that day had a shirt they could give to the young man, but his inquiry set in motion a flurry of activity within OCV. A T-Shirts For The Troops drive was the hot topic at the club's next board meeting, and the Marine's simple request grew into a nationwide campaign to get Corvette clubs to donate tees for our servicemen and women.
Club members Dave and Edy Gautschy coordinated the T-shirt drive, and many OCV members went off on their own to solicit T-shirts with car-oriented themes from parts and accessories companies both near home in Orange County and around the country.
By late April, the Gautschys' home was overflowing with bright, colorful new T-shirts depicting Corvettes, Mustangs, street rods, Harleys, and the logos of several dozen companies. Car club members look for excuses to party, and if they can combine doing something for the common good and have a party at the same, all the better. In this instance it meant a T-shirt packing party. We were dealing with the military, so it was a packing party with some very exact specifications as to how the T-shirts were to be packed. We were also dealing with a Corvette club, so plenty of Corvettes, at least one of every generation, lined the street in front of Dave and Edy's home.
It's probably a good thing that the packing had to be completed before the barbeque (chicken and steaks with plenty of "sides," salads, and desserts, which was chased, of course, with ice-cold beer and other beverages) began. As it was, squeezing a folded XX or XXX-Large T-shirt into a quart-sized Zip-Lock freezer bag was a test in manual dexterity. A full belly and a couple brewskis wouldn't have helped a whole lot! A folded card, describing what OCV did and crediting as many T-shirt contributors as possible, was inserted into each freezer bag after a shirt was fitted within, and then the shirt size was noted on the outside of the bag using black "Sharpie" markers, as specified. The shirts were then loaded into 18x18x18 corrugated boxes and readied for delivery to Camp Pendleton.
Two weeks later, on Saturday, May 22nd, 26 Corvettes and about 50 people showed up at the Gautschy homestead in Westminster. Once again, every generation was represented. Each car was required to carry at least one box; some of the early models were max'd out at one box, and the C5s in the crowd handled three or more with ease. Once the boxes of shirts were loaded up, the 26-Corvette caravan headed south on I-5 toward Camp Pendleton. The reaction-plenty of waves and thumbs up-from other drivers was priceless. I particularly enjoyed seeing solid-axles, mid-years, and Sharks mixing it up with the ubiquitous C4s and C5s. After a great drive along the SoCal coastline, we hit Camp Pendleton, and, thanks to a last-minute change of plans by the Camp Pendleton "brass," we headed inland a few miles to a shopping mall in Oceanside, site of a community Troop Appreciation Day, where the Corvettes were put on display and the shirts were handed over to representatives of the Marine Corps.
The OCV board originally hoped to get a couple hundred T-shirts they could forward to some of the brave young men and women from Camp Pendleton who are serving in Iraq. They succeeded and then some. No one got an exact tally, and it really doesn't matter. I counted 38 boxes of bagged shirts, and each box held somewhere between 30 to as many as 50 shirts. I'm think somewhere around 1,500 T-shirts is a reasonable estimate. But whatever the quantity, the members of Orange County Vettes have provided "a touch of home" for some brave servicemen and women.