By Chris Smith
Growing up, everyone in my neck of the woods wanted a jeep. I mean, who wouldn’t right? Jake and Susan came across an opportunity to buy one. It was a 93 YJ, a nice forest green with tan interior, 4.0 straight 6. Being on a budget, Jake did a shackle, a body lift and put thirty-fives on it. Jake bartered with a buddy and had custom bumpers and rock sliders made and installed. When his buddy welded the parts on, he adjusted the parts to cover the small gap caused by the body lift. Jake made kick plates, painted them black to match the bumpers and rock sliders, and riveted them on. When he was all done, it was a very nice-looking jeep with a granny gear from hell that would climb with the best of them. The fuel gage always showed half a tank. One day he filled it up, reset the odometer, and drove it till he found out he could go 245 miles because at 246 miles, he was on the side of the road.
Jake and the family had some great times with the jeep until Jake was tapped for a deployment. His oldest daughter had just turned 16 and had her license. His thoughts were that he would teach her how to drive a stick and everything would be fine. Susan would have the family car and their daughter would drive the jeep.
One good thing about living on West Point Lake is that there are plenty of parks everywhere. One day, Jake and his daughter went to a nearby park to practice. He went over everything from the engine to practicing changing a tire. He covered the ABC’s of how the transmission, clutch, brakes, gears, and all work together. Then came the driving. In a big parking area in the park, his daughter practiced stop and goes. Once she was comfortable, they started driving on the roads in the park. Finally, he had her turn on a certain road that had a slight incline with a stop sign. She stopped at the sign and immediately killed the engine. “No problem, you’ll get it, try again”, Jake said to her. She started the engine again and tried to move and repeated this process several times. On the last attempt, she popped the clutch causing the jeep to lurch forward then he heard a huge cluck. He had her set the parking brake. He looked underneath and somehow the rear drive shift was in two pieces. He could see tears welling up in her eyes. He said, “Don’t worry”. Jake crawled under and used his tools to remove the two pieces. He put the jeep in 4 low, and they drove slowly back to the house. That afternoon, he asked Susan to come outside and he showed her the rear driveshaft. It looked like a tootsie roll that had been twisted into two pieces. He laughed and said he didn’t know how it happened but not to say anything to their daughter about it. Jake called a buddy who had jeeps and went and got another rear drive shaft from him, returned and installed it. The jeep was good to go.
Jake tried for the rest of the week to get his daughter to drive with him, but she refused and would start crying saying she didn’t want to hurt the jeep. Now with the upcoming deployment, Jake was in a bind for a second vehicle. He and Susan talked about it. Finally, he decided to list it. He traded straight titles and got a 97 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Same engine but the Grand Cherokee was an automatic. He hated to get rid of his jeep, but “It is what it is,” he thought.
Jake loved that jeep, but at the end of the day, it was just metal. He was thankful for the memories. Even today, many years later, the family talks about the fun times they had. One day, maybe you’ll see Jake driving another one.
Chris is a Combat Veteran recently retired. He is an avid outdoorsman that enjoys hunting, camping, fishing. He lives with his bride of 29 years in Alabama who he calls “Household 6”. If any Veteran or family member of a veteran who sees changes in their loved one or for that matter anyone that is contemplating suicide, he urges you to contact him at email@example.com