By COLLIN BROOKS
Douglas Gourley took on quite a project on when he joined the United States Army in 1964. It was the least a group of David Crockett students and their teacher, Rick Freeman, could do to finish Gourley’s personal project all these years later.
Freeman and his senior students — David Seaboch, Jonathan Phillips, Billy Baker and Dustyn Hull — presented Gourley with his freshly painted 1981 Chevy Truck, which they started to work on during their junior year. Dakotah Lyons also helped on the project, in which the group fixed rust spots and then painted the truck with a two-tone paint scheme of maroon and grey.
“It looks really good and a lot better than I thought it would be, it was in pretty bad shape when they got it,” a smiling Gourley said with his keys in hand.
Gourley, who served in the 173rd Airborne for 34 months, received a Purple Heart during his time in the service after he lost his leg just days before he was set to be discharged. Gourley was patrolling with his unit when he stepped off of the path and onto a landmine. He lost his right leg as a result.
“That is a sign to stay on the straight and narrow, boys,” Gourley said with a grin as he was surrounded by the group that just presented him with the truck. “I stepped off the path and stepped onto that thing.”
Freeman said that he and his class had worked on cars before, but never as a charitable gesture and he said that he and his boys were more than pleased to do it.
“It’s important for us to honor our veterans, because freedom isn’t free, that’s just the way it is. Someone is going to have to fight for our freedom and for your rights,” Freeman said.
Paint and Lacquer supply in Johnson City along with White’s Auto Parts in Jonesborough provided some of materials to make the project possible and the group would take their hour-long class period to work on the it.
“It was a bunch of hard work just because of the amount of the rust, but seeing his reaction, all of the hard work really paid off,” said Phillips, who mentioned that Lyons was one of his best friends. “To see that reaction was worth every bit of the work.”
His classmates agreed.
“It feels great ,” said Seaboch about the smile on Gourley’s face. “It really feels nice to know that we were able to help bring that smile to him.”
Baker was another student that worked on the vehicle and said it was a perfect way to help perfect something that he would like to do for a living.
“This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, I want to paint cars and do body work, so to be able to do something like this in high school really helps me,” Baker said. “Mr. Freeman helps a lot, showing us how to do it and what we need to do. And telling us to slow down.”
Hull said that having the opportunity to work on such a project while he is still in high school is fulfilling, and now he will have something to tell his friends every time he see that maroon and grey painted truck in town.
“It gives us a good opportunity to learn things,” Hull said. “When your going down the road and you see that truck, it will be a story that you always have.”