Recently returned from a year-long tour of duty in the Middle East, U.S. Army Cpl. James Wesley Trent was on leave with his family in Florida when he found his brand new pickup truck stolen, stripped and burned to the ground. Where just a few days before, he was proudly rolling out in the gold-hued Ford F-250 Super Duty, he was now looking at a charred wreck. Yes, there were worse things that could happen as his deployments overseas had proven. However, this fresh injury brought home the unfairness of it all. Eventually, insurance would replace the destroyed truck, but it couldn’t repair his loss of faith in his fellow man. That’s when members of the off-road community stepped in to help.
“Last year while watching the news I saw the unfortunate tragedy that happened to Corporal Trent,” said Florida resident Phil Gottes, CEO of TuffTruckParts.com in Boca Raton. “When I heard this, I knew we could help build this soldier a new custom truck.”
After Trent returned to his base Fort Bliss, Texas, Gottes contacted his parents to offer assistance. They had replaced the truck with a used stock model, but it was a far cry from the custom-built original. The young man was due back for a surprise birthday party in December and when the time came Gottes and his wife, Lisa, hopped in their custom Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and made the four-hour drive. Surrounded by friends and family, Trent was gifted with the promise that his replacement truck would be fully customized free of charge.
“We told him that we were building him a new custom truck and there were a lot of tears,” said Gottes. “We were so happy to help this soldier and turn a negative event into a positive one.”
Gottes went to work immediately. Using all his experience and industry contacts, he spent the next three months making over a hundred phone calls and emails to ask fellow off-road professionals for support. The response was incredible. American Force Wheels promised new 22-inch rims. Fabtech, AXIS Driveline and Yukon Gear donated a suspension lift kit and drivetrain components. Fab Fours, Ranch Hand, Bushwacker, Rolling Big Power (RBP) and Truck Hero supplied the exterior accessories to upgrade the truck with new bumpers, side steps, fender flares, rack, grille and bed cover. Spec-D provided custom headlights and El paso local Ricks lighting restoration. There was only one problem – Gottes was in Florida while Trent and his replacement truck were in El Paso, Texas.
4 Wheel Parts (4WP). As the nation’s largest off-road retailer and installer, 4WP had a store with full vehicle bays in El Paso – and store manager Rick Gonzalez soon received a phone call from Gottes at Tufftruckparts.com
“Once we heard about this young man’s story we were on it,” said Gonzalez. “Phil asked me and [4WP regional manager] Jeffery Komorn if we could sponsor the labor sense the truck was not by their location and we were on board right away. The entire team was involved, and everyone was excited to pitch in.”
$30,000 + worth of donated truck parts began arriving at the El Paso 4WP store. The lift kit, bumpers and wheels came first. Additional accessories started pouring in like a custom drive shaft from AXIS drive shafts as vendors responded to Gottes’ call. When the truck was dropped off for installation, 4WP technicians Juan Moreno, Levin Reyes, Roberto Cardona, Quetz “Q” Rojas got to work completing the build, rotating shifts and working after hours every day for two weeks. Local El Paso companies Rigo’s Graphics and Truck Wrap were enlisted to apply the custom wrap and finishing touches.
On March 2, Gottes scheduled a reveal of the truck when he new Cpl. James Wesley Trent would be at his base in El Paso. He then flew into El Paso to join Gonzales and the 4WP crew to present Trent with his finished custom truck. As the flag-wrapped truck rolled up to the staging area, magnificent from bumper to bumper, Trent, his whole squad, all local news crews and 4WP supporters broke out into applause and cheers.
“It’s a feeling I can’t fully comprehend yet,” said an emotional Trent to local television station KTSM/NMC and KDBC/CBS. “It means the world to me. It means that we’re not doing it for nothing.”
“It’s an honor that we’re able to [do this],” said Gottes and 4WP sales associate Ralph Villa. “Instead of Wesley telling us ‘thank you,’ we’re reaching out to him in thanks for his service.”
After the event Gottes of Tufftruckparts.com through an amazing night out for all the 4-Wheel Parts employees Involved and Cpl. James Wesley Trent's whole squad. This was of course appreciation to 4-Wheel Parts ElPaso and all El Paso local businesses with the support for this build.