Henry Ford, business tycoon and the founder of Ford Motor Company, has a name forever linked with manufacturing the first automobile that middle-class Americans could afford, which helped boost the nation’s economy.
So, it’s no small wonder that a significant share of the vehicles on display at the Vets4Veterans annual Classic Car, Motorcycle Show and Poker Run on Sept. 15 at Poncitlán Square in Palmdale were Fords. Chevrolets didn’t take a backseat and neither did some of the other makes, although a Moreland truck could probably be considered the most unusual entry.
The two-and-a-half ton, sunshine yellow vehicle, owned by Palmdale resident Bill Rini, boldly stood out as a giant among the more typically sized trucks and cars.
“I’ve had her probably 30 years,” said Rini, who never served in the military, but was there on behalf of his brother, the late Frank Rini, a Marine who joined the service in 1972 and served for eight years.
“He was deployed to Vietnam, but when he was deployed the war ended so he got sent back home,” Rini said, noting that his brother had been based at Camp Pendleton.
“He was supposed to be here with me.” Rini said his brother, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Palmdale and Lancaster, died recently.
“I do a lot with the vets,” Rini said. “I do all kinds of different charities.” That includes the more than two decades he participated in Thunder on the Lot, a nonprofit event in Lancaster that raised funds for Kid’s Charities.
Rini said when he restored the truck, he kept the original bright yellow color.
“This truck was built custom for the Los Angeles (Department of) Water and Power in 1925. It was built in Burbank,” he added.
The Moreland Motor Truck Company, founded in 1920, was originally headquartered in Burbank. It ceased operation in 1940.
Dean Brown, president of the Antelope Valley Veterans Community Action Coalition, entered his bright red 1970 Chevy El Camino in the show. He said he had that vehicle for about seven years.
Brown is a U.S. Army veteran. “I was a cook. I served at Fort Knox, Ky., in the Reception Center for almost a year. From there I went to Germany. I was in a medical battalion. From there I went to Vietnam.”
Brown said he served in the military for three-and-a-half years and was on his second enlistment when he was in Nam.
“I went in the service as a qualified chef. It kept me out of a lot of things until I got to Vietnam. I was still a cook in Vietnam.”
During his 19 months in Nam, Brown said, he “saw base camp maybe two months.” There he was stationed with the 2nd Battalion, 33rd Field Artillery, 1st Infantry Division. That’s where he “learned everything” about the Howitzer Cannon. “They wouldn’t let me adjust it. Because of my rank, I was in charge of the Ready Reaction Force.”
He explained when the unit was being attacked by the enemy and U.S. soldiers operating machine guns were hit, he had to send out replacements ensuring that the artillery was continuously manned.
“I was drafted in 1968,” said Gerry Rice, a U.S. Army Infantry veteran who in civilian life works as a marriage and family therapist serving combat veterans. He specializes in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly called PTSD, and in deployment issues affecting veterans’ families.
Rice served in Vietnam as an Infantry Scout Dog handler. “I worked with a German shepherd.”
Those dogs are trained to sniff for the presence of improvised explosive devices known as IEDs; ambushes; and weapons caches.
“They provide early silent warnings of the enemy’s presence. They wouldn’t bark,” Rice said. He was stationed at Phan Thiet, LZ Betty, II Corps, less than two hours north of Saigon. “We took indirect fire from mortars (while) in the base. And, on patrol, we’d make contact with the enemy.”
Although Rice treats veterans suffering from PTSD, he had also been diagnosed with the condition. “That’s become part of my credentials. I spent three decades living with PTSD, not knowing what it was.” That experience helps him relate to other veterans coping with the disorder. When asked what helped him, Rice credited Point Man International Ministries. “I learned how to live better with my war experience.”
His wife, Carol Rice, sits on the board of Vets4Veterans. He serves as a committee member for the organization.
“I support Vets4Veterans. It started in a Vietnam Veterans group I was leading at the Vet Center, a VA facility in Palmdale,” Rice said.
“That’s my connection.”
Jodi Kyman, volunteer coordinator for the event, checked in volunteers who had signed up to work at the car show, which kicked off at noon. By 1:30 p.m. between 65 and 70 volunteers checked in.
“They’re doing registration of the cars,” Kyman said. “We have people doing drawings. We also have people helping in the food area. Volunteers are running games in the Kids Zone. There’s popcorn and snow cones. It’s kids from Palmdale Aerospace Academy, kids from SOAR (High School) and Antelope Valley Young Marines working the booth in the Kids Zone.”
Aside from checking out all the cars and motorcycles, folks who attended the event, browsed through various vendor booths offering food, jewelry and craft items.
Megan Hilzendeger, a board member of Vets4Veterans, said some 200 vehicles were on display — about 160 cars and 40 motorcycles. Her husband Tom is the organization’s president.
Between the drawings and the participation entry fees, the event raised approximately $17,000 which will benefit Vets4Veterans programs. That was an early estimate before the funds had been counted, according to Hilzendeger.
“That money goes directly to our programs — scholarships (and) hardships. We pay rent, we pay utility bills and we have our transitional home.” Funds raised “pay for the upkeep of that home,” Hilzendeger said of a renovated one-story house in Lancaster. “We had a plumbing problem, and we have a lot of repairs to do. These funds will help with that and we’re still hoping to buy another house.”
Transitional homes provide temporary shelter for veterans and their families.
As Hilzendeger spoke, women dressed in 1950s-style outfits circulated around the event assisting folks in the crowd.
“These are the Bombshell Bettys,” she said. “They’ve come out the last few years. Last year they raised money for us through their calendar sales.”
Sometimes, instead of a 1950s look they dress in military clothes, according to Hilzendeger. “They’re vintage. They’re an amazing group of women. They had a Pin-Up Contest today.”