February 2011 Readers' Rides

Warrior's Heart
Generally, these pages are devoted to showcase readers' Camaros-after all, they are what really make this hobby tick. But every now and again we find a car, and a reader, that really gets our attention and reminds us that there are other things more important than 1,000 hp engines and three-piece forged wheels. Such was the case with the '69 Camaro owned and built by Carmen Brancato.

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As Carmen recalls, "I come from a military family, with my Dad and both grandfathers having served in the Marines, a sister serving as a nurse in the Army and being deployed this June to Afghanistan (presently stationed at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC), a brother-in-law presently deployed overseas in the Navy, and myself having served a short time in the Marines. In June 2009, I visited my sister while she was stationed at the burn unit in Brooke Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. During my stay, I was able to take a tour of the Center for the Intrepid, a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility located next to the hospital. As my sister and I toured the facility, we were able to meet some of these brave warriors who had sustained life-altering wounds. The looks on their faces were not one of self-pity, as many would feel, but of determination. It was truly a humbling experience that made me feel honored to have met them. Not all of them could return to battle to be with their fellow brothers and sisters, but if they had the chance, I know they would surely do so. I left the facility wanting to do whatever I could do to help these men and women continue to get the best possible rehabilitation and care they could receive. My cousin Joseph Brancato II was involved in work with charities, which prompted me to find a charity that supported our wounded troops. After some research, and a car show my sister and I attended, I was introduced to the Wounded Warrior Project." Carmen figured he could help raise awareness, and donations, through the use of his '69 Camaro.

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Carmen sold his truck to start the project and worked with Arizona Designs in Maple Shade, New Jersey, to come up with a vinyl wrap with images of the various branches of our armed forces. "So far, all of the costs, from the $3,500 graphics, to the fuel, tolls, and maintenance have been covered by my own finances. It hasn't been easy for my family, but it is a small sacrifice compared to those being made by our troops and their families," remarks Carmen. The Camaro debuted on July 4th of 2009, and since then it has visited military bases, hospitals, and reserve centers all over the country. It's also been at NASCAR events and even a number of country music concerts. This year, Carmen trailered and drove the SS across the country to further promote the charity after being invited to display at the SEMA Show. In fact, he's put over 20,000 miles on the Camaro since July of 2009.

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You can find out more about how Carmen and his Camaro are supporting our troops at www.warriorcamaro.org. There's also a huge list of companies, many of them advertisers in this magazine, supporting this very worthy cause. Also, be sure to visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org to find out how we can all do just a bit more for our fighting men and women.

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