“I was wondering what to do with my life, and I talked it over with my father, who was in the Army for 20 years and served in the Desert Storm campaign” in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991. “I was thinking about a military career, and he said he thought the Air Force would be the way to go.”
In the course of his career, Mr. Willingham says he has served both overseas and various places in the United States, but can’t talk about his service because it involves classified operations. What he could say was that he serves at a base in New Jersey and uses his truck to make a daily 80-mile commute to work.
“The military has been great to me,” he said. “It’s given me skills that I can use in a lot of different ways when I retire” in two more years.
Married and the father of six children, Mr. Willingham said the right front and side of his truck were badly damaged early last year when he accidentally sideswiped a telephone pole after a very long day of work.
“Since it was my fault, I was going to have to pay the deductible, and my insurance premium would probably go up, neither of which I could afford.” So he decided not to make a claim and wait to put enough money together to get the truck repaired, he explained.
“With a family my size, a military salary doesn’t go very far, so this Metal of Honor Award is going to come in very handy,” Mr. Willingham remarked. He said he nominated himself after learning about the award on Facebook. “I’d completely forgotten about that, so it came as a real surprise when I found out I’d won.”
Mr. Willingham owns two show cars, a 1926 Model T Ford hot rod and a sporty 2005 Dodge Ram SRT 10 pickup truck. He is also a member of a South Jersey car club, Endless Pleazures, which, in addition to its regular activities, conducts a number of charity drives throughout the year, including fundraising for breast cancer and autism research, and collecting toys for needy children and books for children receiving care at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ.
Ironically, a few days ago – the day after his Ford went in for its Metal of Honor repairs -- he was rear-ended while driving the Dodge to work.
“It was the other driver’s fault, so I’m filing a claim and am going to have the truck fixed at the same CollisionMax shop,” he said.