County car show enthusiasts gather in Alpine to benefit local veterans and wounded warriors

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Car buffs from San Diego County’s Garage Crew 22 converged on Alpine’s American Legion Post 258 on February 20, to host a car show, with proceeds from the event slated to benefit local veterans and wounded warriors. The American Legion as a veteran’s service organization is affiliated with other groups within what is called The American Legion Family. One of these associated organizations is known as Garage Crew, intended for military veterans and their family members who are also car enthusiasts. 

Car buffs from San Diego County’s Garage Crew 22 converged on Alpine’s American Legion Post 258 on February 20, to host a car show, with proceeds from the event slated to benefit local veterans and wounded warriors. The American Legion as a veteran’s service organization is affiliated with other groups within what is called The American Legion Family. One of these associated organizations is known as Garage Crew, intended for military veterans and their family members who are also car enthusiasts. 

The mission of The American Legion Garage Crew is to support veterans and their family members, among endeavors by staging fundraising efforts and participating with their vehicles in parades and other community service events. Each member of Garage Crew owns a classic, specialty or sports vehicle.

The Alpine car show kicked off at 11 a.m. and lasted into the evening hours, with food and drink specials, and entertainment and games, designed to accompany and complement the event’s awards in four categories for best vehicles entered into the show. A donation car wash was available behind the Post, and drink specials were offered before and during the show.

Participants and attendees came to the show throughout the day, from such far-flung locations as Vista and Escondido to the north, Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and National City to the south, and Pacific Beach to the west.

East County was well represented at the event, with Marshall Ralph of Alpine taking home the award for best classic car in the show, for his 1933 Chevrolet two-door sedan. Ralph described his fondness for the vehicle he has owned for “30-some years.” He noted that he often enters his Chevy into car shows. He has won big trophies, which he has given to his grandchildren. “This is all original, except for the engine, which I replaced four or five years ago,” he said. “I donated that engine to the downtown car museum.” Ralph served in the U.S. Air Force for 32 and one half years. He will turn 80 on October 28.

The “most unique vehicle” trophy was handed to a “parade locomotive,” a drivable facsimile of a train’s engine car, which is owned and maintained by the Forty and Eight veteran organization in Escondido. The nomenclature refers to the “40/8” stenciled on French train boxcars during World War I, denoting that each could carry 40 men or eight horses to the battlefront. The veterans group raises money for scholarships for students enrolled in military nursing programs and for donations to children’s charities. Other show awards were bestowed for best modern car and cleanest car.

Gene Michonski of Santee entered his daughter’s Ford Mustang in the show in his role as Garage Crew 22’s vice president.

“This is pretty good turnout for our first show,” Michonski stated. “This is a good recruiting tool. Our organization has been struggling for a couple of years to get up and running, but now people are starting to get excited.” Michonski further relayed that the next Garage Crew car show is projected for staging in May. 

Three car enthusiasts who attended also signed up for membership in Garage Crew 22. Among these new members was a dignitary at the event, American Legion District 22 Commander Desiree Herrera, an Army veteran. She joked, “I am still waiting for the Toyota Prius Club. We could be called the slow riders.”

Anthony “Tony” Stewart, president of Garage Crew 22, said of his group and the day’s activities, “Garage Crew 22 is currently comprised of driving cruisers from eight Posts throughout San Diego County. All the members came together to host a modest car show at the Alpine Post 258. But more importantly, we raised funds to support the Alpine Post and American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors national program, or as we call it for short, OCW.” 

Frank Beckley is Junior Past Commander of Alpine Post 258, as well as belonging to Garage Crew 22 and serving as a Legionnaire Executive Board Member for District 22. He praised the event, “We appreciate what this does for the Post. This helps people in Alpine and throughout East County know that we are here, and that we’re here for veterans and for the community.” 

OCW is a charitable program dedicated to supplying wounded, injured and ill military personnel with comfort items not usually offered in military hospitals and warrior transition units. OCW routinely provides hygiene and shaving kits, sweatshirts and pants, phone calling cards, and small entertainment devices and games as comfort and grateful acknowledgment of their service to wounded warriors.

Stewart concluded remarks after announcing the car show winners, saying, “On behalf of Garage Crew 22, we are veterans taking care of veterans. Thanks for your support. Great day. Great cause. Great people…. Driving for veterans.”

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