By Alicia Lacy
Fort Hood Herald
In the 1960s and 1970s, highway fatalities were steadily increasing every year, with a large percentage of those being returning Vietnam veterans, according to information from Ford Motor Co. and the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
To help remedy the growing number of vehicle deaths, lawyer and racing legend Elton "Al" Eckstrand, with the help of the car manufacturer, created the Lawman U.S. Performance Team to educate troops on road safety.
Some 40 years later, former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg and Ford have again teamed up to recreate the road safety campaign that toured bases in Asia and Europe. That tour came to Fort Hood Saturday and included Goldberg's 1970 Lawman "Super Boss" 429 780-horsepower Mustang on display. The vehicle was part of the original tour.
After learning the history of the 1970 Lawman that was included in the original tour, Goldberg purchased the vehicle at auction and got to work collaborating with Ford to recreate the tour.
"I learned about the story and met the guy who took it there," Goldberg said. "I wanted to re-enact that tour."
Goldberg said he hopes the tour and driving school will empower troops to be better drivers.
"Slowly but surely, we're doing a good thing each weekend," he said. "Each base, it grows and hopefully its something for years to come."
The 10-base tour began at Fort Sill, Okla. in April and will wrap up at Fort Bragg, N.C., in October.
Goldberg and Ford organizers wanted to make the day about the troops and their families.
The solider- and family-friendly event gave attendees a chance to test-drive the new 2011 Mustang or 2011 Fiesta, while raising money for the National Military Family Association. Ford put a call out for Mustang owner to attend, which resulted in a parking lot filled with classic to newer models of the car. Attendees were able to take part in interactive displays and a pull-up challenge.
"Ford Motor Company is actually a big proponent for the military and we came up with Ford Operation Drive One as a way for Ford to demonstrate its commitment to the military by bringing forth a meaningful, fun experience to the troops and their families at military bases," said Jeff McLendon, Ford zone manager for the Dallas Region.
"It gives them an opportunity to get their mind off what their jobs are and gives them an opportunity to understand how much an individual like myself and a company like Ford and its employees care," Goldberg said.
Pfc. Michael Hudson, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was excited to test drive the cars and meet his idol Goldberg, someone he and his late father would watch wrestle.
"Goldberg was my favorite wrestler," he said. "My dad and I were big Goldberg fans and to meet one of his heroes is pretty cool."
The tour supports and includes all branches of the military.
While allowing attendees to test drive the Mustangs or Fiestas, Ford agreed to donate $20 for every test drive to the National Military Family Association, capping it at $10,000 per event.
"It's a great way for Ford Motor Company to give back," McLendon said. "The charity benefits the family members and the people who serve."
"It's a complete, comprehensive charity," he added about the selection of the National Military Family Association, which supports those serving with the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
The National Military Family Association advocates for soldiers and families in Congress and educates military families about their benefits and the public about the needs of military families, Susan Evers, the organization's central region field coordinator.
"Because we are a nonprofit organization and we rely on charitable donations to fund our programs, pay for our staff and train our volunteers, it's very important to us to have somebody like Ford supporting us,:" Evers said.
Supporting the military is something Goldberg tries to do regularly.
"Regardless of me being a celebrity of not, I'm an American that's greatly appreciative of every single man and woman who would risk their lives fighting for our freedom," Goldberg said. "It's the least that I can do.
"My time is no better spent than thanking everybody who fight for our freedom," he said.