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My name is Carmen Brancato from Philadelphia, Pa. I am a volunteer for the Fisher House Foundation and the Disabled American Veterans charities. I come from a military family with my Dad and both grandfathers having served in the Marines, my son presently serving in the Army having returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, my sister, an Army nurse recently promoted to Lieutenant Colonel presently stationed at Ft. Benning, GA, a brother-in-law in the Navy and myself having served a short time in the Marines.
Back in June 2009, I visited my sister while she was stationed at the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. During my stay, I was able to take a tour of the Center for the Intrepid, a multi-million dollar, state of the art rehabilitation facility located next to the hospital. As my sister and I toured the facility, we were able to meet some of these brave warriors who had sustained life-altering wounds. The looks on their faces was not one of self-pity, as many would feel, but of determination. It was truly a humbling experience that made me feel honored to have met them. Not all of them could return to battle to be with their fellow brothers and sisters, but if they had the chance, I know they would surely do so. I left the facility wanting to do whatever I could do to help these men and women continue to get the best possible rehabilitation and care that they could receive. My cousin Joseph Brancato II was involved in work with charities, which prompted me to find a charity that supported our wounded troops. After some research and a car show that my sister and I attended, I was introduced to the Fisher House Foundation and the Disabled American Veterans charities. Please visit the websites to see all of the great programs that have been established to help not only the injured warriors, but their families as well. In this day and age when it seems like everyone's against the war, people tend to forget about all of the sacrifices these men and women have made and continue to make daily, the Fisher House Foundation and the Disabled American Veterans charities continue to make sure that these sacrifices are not forgotten.
To gain the public's awareness of the charity, I decided to redo my 1969 Camaro SS in a military theme with images of all of our armed forces in action and logos for the Fisher House Foundation charity and its website. I made a call to Arizona Designs in Maple Shade, New Jersey and the project was underway. I sold my truck the next week in order to finance the project, and on July 4, 2009, the car made its debut. There were numerous events that summer where the car was on display - from military venues and homecomings to big name concerts, NASCAR races, major league sporting events, and nationwide car shows. After being invited to the SEMA show in Las Vegas that November of 2009, the car really started to gain recognition. There were many major companies that believed in the Fisher House Foundation and Disabled American Veterans charities and wanted to help in any way they could. I was introduced to a lot of great people that truly opened the doors for me to be able to attend events, both military and civilian, that enabled me to promote the charity.
It's now 2016 and it's been almost seven years since beginning this project with the Camaro. I have driven the car all over our great country, from one coast to the other - the number of incredible people I have met has been immeasurable and the support people have shown for this charity and our troops has been overwhelming. I am very proud to represent the Fisher House Foundation and the Disabled American Veterans charities and I will continue to do all I can to promote the outstanding work they do for our troops.
All of the costs for the Camaro's graphics, fuel, tolls and maintenance each year have been covered by my own finances, which hasn't been easy for my family, but it is a small sacrifice compared to those being made by our troops and their families. Again, please take the time to visit the Fisher House Foundation and the Disabled American Veterans charity websites to see all of the great ways this charity is helping our severely wounded troops and their families and please make a donation so these programs can continue. Thank you in advance for your time and support. The greatest casualty of war is being forgotten.
Carmen J. Brancato