Restoration of workhorse veteran labor of love

From Jan Campbell

Don Carolus enjoyed restoring this vehicle.

Don Carolus enjoyed restoring this vehicle.

Don Carolus waves in a past parade.

Don Carolus waves in a past parade.

Editor’s note: Jan Campbell is daughter of Don Carolus, a World War II veteran who served January 1943 to March 1946.

I know this veteran who served in World War II. He was never flashy. He worked hard and rarely complained during his service time. He had gotten pretty banged up but then he met my dad, Don Carolus. Don took my friend apart then lovingly carefully fixed each piece and put him back together.

You see, my veteran friend is a 1946 Willys Jeep. It is one of many veteran workhorses of the Army who pulled their weight in numerous conflicts, serving both stateside and overseas.

This Jeep came to my dad’s house in 2008 when Dad began the long process of restoration. Dad was himself a veteran of World War II, starting his military life as many of his buddies did at Camp Perry in Toledo in January 1943.

After basic training in California, Dad spent time in training in Yuma, Arizona, and Duck Hill, Mississippi. His military focus was — you guessed it — motor vehicles. Dad said he worked on anything from a standard Jeep to a half-track. He eventually spent 26 months serving in Assam, India, where his company was responsible for forward supply logistics of the China-Burma-India theatre of operations. Although Dad was not officially on a battle front, he often flew voluntarily “across the hump” of the Himalayan mountains to drop supply support to troops at the front of the Chinese/Japanese war zone. He spoke of being shot at on some of those flights, and would flash a sheepish grin when he told those stories.

Dad came home and was honorably discharged in March 1946, his ship landing in San Franciso Bay. The next 70-plus years were dedicated to faith, family and building that American dream for which our servicemen and women fought so bravely on all battle fronts across the globe.

When Dad started restoring his Jeep, I’m not sure he could know just how much it would come to mean to all of us as a family. It was a part of him. It was a part of is history. It was part of his passion for all things “buildable.”

For several years every Memorial Day he would proudly ride in his Jeep, waving to the crowd as his son or grandson drove him in his moments of glory. Behind him would be a large pickup pulling a float full of sons, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Often nieces or nephews would join, or even a close friend of two. It brought us all together to celebrate Dad and all veterans — especially those who gave their all.

Dad lost his earthly battle at 94 years old this past January. Not able to part with the Jeep, my husband and I purchased it from my sisters and brother. When Memorial Day 2019 came, my heart just wasn’t in it to put my buddy in the parade without Dad.

So my children and grandchildren climb on the Jeep, take pictures in the Jeep and take short rides. It’s now a historical vehicle. We miss my dad each time the Jeep rolls out of the parade.

Thanks, old buddy. You served well.

Don Carolus enjoyed restoring this vehicle. Carolus enjoyed restoring this vehicle.
Don Carolus waves in a past parade. Carolus waves in a past parade.

From Jan Campbell

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