Donors can support the Salute Our Troops campaign with donations through Labor Day at any of more than 1,600 Kangaroo stores across 13 states. They also can add personalized greetings or expressions of thanks for the troops by posting photos or videos — as some 2,000 people have done during the tour — on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube through www.KESalute.com
The jeep attracts them, but the message gets them.
It's hard for patrons not to notice the restored 1952 Willys CJ3 jeep, painted in Army-issue green, but it's the Kangaroo Express Salute Our Troops campaign that resonates.
The campaign tour, which raises money and awareness for several organizations that assist troops or veterans, made three stops Tuesday in the Chattanooga area.
"I'm always respectful of all [those] guys and women out there making it safe for the country," said Jason Dyer, of East Ridge, who took a look at the vehicle during the tour's stop at the Kangaroo Express just off Interstate 75 in Ooltewah. "I take my hat off to them."
The campaign's original goal was to raise $1 million for the USO, the Wounded Warrior Project and National Guard's family assistance programs. But that goal was surpassed in the first month of the tour, which began in May.
"We're now at $1.2 million," said Tim McGinn, one of two men accompanying the jeep on its 16-week tour across 12 of the company's market areas in the Southeast. "We hope to reach or exceed $2 million by September."
Ron Jones, general manager of the Ooltewah Kangaroo Express, said that, at the start of the campaign, he was told the store would need to average $6 a day in donations.
"We've gone way past that," he said. "It's a good cause. [The troops] are out risking their lives for us on a daily basis. [They] all could use every bit of help they can get."
The jeep itself was activated Feb. 1, 1957, and assigned to headquarters at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
"It was a general's jeep," said Drew Stipe, who accompanies the vehicle on its tour. "It was his personal car to ride around the base."
The jeep, which could be used in its heyday to jump-start Cold War-era planes with an external cable, was restored to its original condition in Kentucky.
"Most parts are original," he said.
People tell him at every stop, Stipe said, that they saw such jeeps when they served in the Army, rode in one on their grandfather's farm growing up or had various other experiences with one.
"It was not built for comfort," he said, "and not to get there fast. It tops out at about 40 [mph]. But they're built to last forever."
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...