Thanks to the time and money of hundreds of volunteers and well-wishers, a fallen soldier's last wish -- a gift to his beloved wife -- has been fulfilled, 9News reports.
Several years ago, Bruce Hays purchased a battered 1959 Chevrolet Apache pickup truck for his wife, Terry, as an anniversary gift.
“I used to tell Bruce about how, when we were kids, we would go to the drive-in in my dad’s Chevy Apache," Terry told Fox News. "He remembered that. He knew how much it meant to me."
Though the truck was an old wreck when he bought it, Hays had hoped that he and his wife would be able to restore it together.
But before they got the chance, Hays -- a captain in the Wyoming Army National Guard -- was deployed to Afghanistan.
Less than a month later, in September 2008, Captain Hays was killed by a roadside bomb, leaving behind his wife and their family.
He also left behind a final, uncompleted gift for his family -- that old Chevy Apache.
Before he left for Afghanistan, 9News reports that Hays paid a local mechanic $17,000 to restore the truck. It was to be a surprise gift for his wife.
Unfortunately, it was soon learned that the man Hays had hired had taken the money and fled. By the time law enforcement caught up with the mechanic, he had already spent the money and had left the truck in several pieces.
When friends of Hays heard about this, they knew they had to act -- honoring a soldier's sacrifice by helping complete the final gift for his wife.
With the help of Kent Stevinson, president of Stevinson Automotive, students from WyoTech, a local technical school, community volunteers and donors nationwide who contributed parts and money to the Captain Bruce Hays Chevrolet Apache Project , the pick-up truck was finally restored.
In February, Capt. Hays's gift to his wife was delivered to her home in Las Cruces, N.M., Fox News reports.
“Sitting in the truck is like having his arms around us, giving us comfort,” Terry said.
“They’ve really captured his spirit. The truck is a beautiful symbol of American strength and unity," she added.
According to 9News, donations to the Captain Bruce Hays Chevrolet Apache Project not only covered the cost of restoring the truck, but also provided seed money for a scholarship fund, which will be offered to veterans and their children attending WyoTech.
To donate to the project or to learn more, visit the Captain Bruce Hays Chevrolet Apache Project's website.