Barrett-Jackson Wounded Warrior
Col. John Folsom and Barrett Jackson team up to raise miles of money for Wounded Warriors Family Support.
-In 2003, Col. John Folsom was recalled-again-to active duty. Col. Folsom had spent several years on active duty as a helicopter pilot and 23 years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. But immediately after the attacks on 9/11, he was recalled to active duty and assigned to Marine Forces, Pacific, for some 11 months, until August, 2002. Later that same year, his country called again, this time assigning him as the Marine liaison officer to U.S. European Command.
“When the ground campaign kicked off in March of 2003, I was monitoring Marine casualties,” Col. Folsom said. “The first stop for casualties from Afghanistan and Iraq was the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which was not too far from the European headquarters in Germany. Although the hospital was doing a great job in medical care, it needed help in terms of providing morale and comfort needs” Col. Folsom “passed the hat” and used the money he collected to buy televisions and DVD players and for clothing so that wounded warriors wouldn’t have to wear hospital gowns all of the time. Later, Col. Folsom would service in Iraq, from February 2005 through February, 2006 and from July, 2008 to February, 2009, first as a liaison officer for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, and then as “Air Boss” at the Forward Operating Base Camp Korean Village near Ar Rutbah, where he was in charge of all Marine attack and Army Medevac helicopter operations in the area. Finally he served as camp commandant at Camp al Taqaddum.
While in Iraq, Col. Folsom continued to raise money to help support the wounded. But he also learned how many families back in the United States were having trouble adjusting to having family members away and in combat, how children were having difficulty dealing with life with a parent gone-too often, gone forever-or even to making the adjustments needed when a parent returned home, especially being wounded. Finally, retired from active and reserve status, the colonel returned to his home in Nebraska and founded Wounded Warriors Family Support with the goal of helping families mend relationships.
Wounded Warriors Family Support provides places for families to stay while on vacation visits to the various attractions at Orlando, Fla., to the Gulf of Mexico shores at Galveston, Texas, or to Shenandoah or Yellowstone National Parks. It works with Take Flight Farms to help children deal with anger, grief, confusion and anxiety. It also works with other support groups, such as the Fisher House Foundation and the National Military Family Association.
One family told the colonel that they merely wanted to be able to take a road trip, to pile into the car and see “our great country”. That got him to thinking and led to the High Five Tour and an ambitious fundraising effort that culminates at the Barrett-Jackson auction several weeks from now at Palm Beach, Fla. Col. Folsom bought a car and set off to visit all of the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia, to raise both money and awareness. But he didn’t select just any vehicle for what he called “street level engagement” with the American public. He bought a 2011 Shelby GT500 Ford Mustang.
“The Ford Mustang is a great American car, an icon, and so symbolic-the Mustang wild and free, a symbol of the American spirit”, Col Folsom explained. “That’s why I chose the Mustang, and it was suggested to me that the Shelby really represented American Muscle. It’s an unapologetic Muscle car.”
Col. Folsom said the High Five Tour-so named to thank the American people for their support-was a way to get the word out and to enlist support, “to let folks know what we’re doing and to thank them for their support, to let folks know what we’re doing and to thank them for their support of military families.” “One thing all of us need to realize in the non-profit world is that with all the great ideas we have, nothing happens unless the American people step up and support it.” The Mustang was wrapped in patriotic red/white and blue vinyl so it could be autographed by those the colonel met along the way. Thousands signed, including people who had lost family members to combat. Col. Folsom’s drive is chronicled on the www.highfivetour.com website. Wounded Warriors Family Support also has a website, wwfs.org. “It’s a real honor for Barrett-Jackson to help and support in any way our military and the families,” said Barrett-Jackson President Steve Davis, who first became aware of the High Five Tour when the colonel and the Mustang came to Phoenix, stopping at Sanderson Ford last July. The patriotically colored and well signed Mustang will be displayed at West World during the Scottsdale auction, and then will cross the block at Palm Beach. “We not only raise money on the auction block,” Davis said, “but want to create awareness for people who may not be able to write a big check but who can still make a $5 or $10 contribution.”
The car will be sold with around 16,000 miles on its odometer, and Col. Folsom has many memories of his long drive throughout the country. One of the most poignant of them came at Montpelier, Vt., where the car was signed by Stephen Gray, whose son, Staff Sergeant Jamie Gray, was among the first from that community to be killed in Iraq. “Kids signed it. Older people signed it. People expressed their heartfelt sentiments. They’d lost sons and nephews,” Col. Folsom said. “Their signing the car made the car more than just a 2011 GT500.” Another and perhaps less heartwarming but certainly heart-racing moment for Col. Folsom came right here in Arizona, as the colonel and his car were traveling on an empty and arrow-straight highway in the northern part of the state. It was a road, Col. Folsom said, “where you could finally unwind the Shelby.”