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thedrifter
03-19-08, 06:25 AM
March 19, 2008
Fallen Marine's Mustang becomes memorial
By Tara Tuckwiller
Staff writer

BRUCETON MILLS - R. J. Jimenez never got a chance to fix up his old Mustang.

After his death, his mom thought she would do it for him.

Her idea has turned into a full-blown memorial for her son and the 12 other men of the 1/8 Marines, Bravo Company, who died in Iraq during the battle of Fallujah.

"I guess it's just for him," said Alesia Swartz, who lived in Belington with her son. She recently moved to Bruceton Mills.

"I guess I know what he felt for the Marines. If he could do that, this is the least I could do."

Jimenez had thought about being a mechanic, she said, before he joined the Marines at 17.

"He would always talk about moving back to West Virginia and being close to his family," his platoon commander wrote in a letter to Swartz after her son's death. "He was so good with vehicles and wanted to go to auto mechanics school and start his own shop one day."

Jimenez bought the car after his first tour in Iraq - the first wave of the Iraq invasion.

Alesia Swartz took the car to Wade's Garage, a restoration garage near Fairmont. Turns out, proprietor Wade Linger's son was in the first wave, too.

"My oldest son was a Marine," Linger said. "His group was one of the first groups into Iraq. He was almost finished with his enlistment in the Marines. He was in a boat on his way home when the invasion took place. They turned the boat around and extended him. They sent him back in."

Robert Linger survived. He is in Ohio now, getting his college degree on the G.I. bill.

Wade Linger said he "blew the car apart into about a million pieces" and restored every single piece. He hired a graphic artist in Arizona to illustrate the concept for the car. An airbrush artist transferred portraits of all 13 Marines onto the car, with Jimenez on the hood.

Word has gotten around.

"I've gotten a few e-mails from Marines and veterans saying how cool they thought it was that this was being done," Linger said. "One local businessman ... called up and, out of the blue, asked if I would accept a donation to help pay for the project." Then a man from Washington state, who was bidding on another restored car Linger had listed on his Web site, saw the Marine car project on the site and called Linger.

"He was getting emotional," Linger said. "He said, 'I've got a couple of sons ... I appreciate what you're doing for this family. I'd like to send a donation. If I could feel I paid for one pint of paint on that car, I'd appreciate it if you'd accept it.'

"It means a lot to me to be part of the project," Wade Linger said. "I'm ex-Air Force. When I was in, there wasn't anything hot going on like our boys are facing now. My son was there and came home in one piece, and I'm grateful for that ...

"As far as I'm concerned, this car has to be perfect."

To contact staff writer Tara Tuckwiller, use e-mail or call 348-5189.

Ellie

yellowwing
03-19-08, 09:46 AM
http://www.ywg-web.com/images/rj.jpg
VWH Campbell/Post-Gazette (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08055/859988-85.stm)
Brian Barker, of B.K. Artworks, puts the finishing touches to the portrait on the hood of a 1992 Mustang GT. The painting portrays the car's owner, Sgt. R.J. Jimenez, who was killed in battle in Iraq in 2004. His mother is having the car restored as a memorial to him and the other Marines who died in Iraq.