Ford honors veterans, military community with special Bronco Off-Roadeo event

Bronco Off-Roadeo event gave veterans, survivors and their families a chance to connect with peers at the adventure driving school

Ford Motor Co. and Blue Star Families partnered to host a special event honoring veterans and military families at one of the automaker's "Bronco Off-Roadeo" adventure driving schools.

The event brought 150 veterans, survivors and their families to Horseshoe Bay, Texas, for the first "Proud to Honor: Bronco Off-Roadeo" event. Participants in the event came from several leading organizations that serve veterans and military families, including Blue Star Families, Guitars 4 Vets, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Travis Manion Foundation, Team Rubicon, Veteran Customer Advocates and Ford's own Veteran Employee Network.

The all-expenses-paid experience was tailored to military families, with trail guides who were also veterans, onsite Veterans Affairs' representatives and resources, access to Ford's military employment and recruiting representative, as well as a musical performance by Guitars 4 Vets and a presentation on Ford's history with veterans and the military.

Jenny Aiken, a Gold Star wife who is a member of Blue Star Families, said that her late husband, Cooper, served in the Army's special forces and died of a burn pit-related oral cancer last year. She explained, "We used to go off-roading during the pandemic. We'd go into the backwoods every weekend up in Washington State. And when he saw that they were releasing the Bronco, he wanted one, but it just didn't get there in time – so getting out there today, it was really quite special."


Blue Star Families Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo

The "Proud to Serve: Bronco Off-Roadeo" brought groups of veterans, survivors and families to Texas for a special off-road training event. (Courtesy of Ford / Fox News)

Aiken said that the event "helped me kind of find a little piece of myself again" and added that Ford's Proud to Honor Bronco Off-Roadeo event helps support the families of servicemembers, veterans and Gold Star families

She added that it's "almost nostalgic" getting to connect with other military families because of the sense of camaraderie and purpose felt when being among a "family you never lose." 

Blue Star Families Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo

Jenny Akin celebrates completing an uphill climb on the off-road course. (Courtesy of Ford / Fox News)

Charles Eggleston, a 16-year Army veteran who was wounded in Iraq and received a Bronze Star, is a member of Blue Star Families and also is the president and CEO of Three Seven Consulting, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business. He said the event allowed him to connect with some individuals he was in the hospital with and it reminded him that, "We're on the same path, the same journey, and we're doing this for the same reason."

"Being around a bunch of like-minded veteran service organizations as well as veterans and their families made me feel at home because all of us have one objective: to bring in with those along with other veterans in need," Eggleston said. "And when I had the chance to shake hands with other veterans organizations, it just made me feel calm and at ease and I felt proud to be a part of Blue Star Families that has allegiance with these other VSOs and MSOs."

Military families veterans Ford Off-Roadeo

Charles Eggleston snaps a picture with a fellow participant on the off-road course. (Courtesy of Ford / Fox News)

Ernesto Hernandez, an Air Force veteran who was wounded in Iraq, is a member of Blue Star Families and founded the Wounded Paw Project, a nonprofit which rescues dogs from kill shelters and rehabilitates and trains them to become service dogs for veterans.


"I attend a lot of events, but this was something spectacular," Hernandez said. "Each one of us got the opportunity to sit behind a great American icon vehicle and just be childish again. You go back to feeling like back when you first enlisted, especially for myself. I was 17 years old when I joined the military." 

"It was that feeling again, you know, being youthful," he explained. "Not saying that I'm old, but I'm just saying that it just provided the energy that I think many of us need sometimes, that we live with a lot of grief and remembrance of honoring the fallen, but today just allowed us not to forget it, but to really honor their sacrifices through a great company such as Ford Motor Company."

Veterans Families Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo

The Becker family listens as one of Ford's veteran off-road driving instructors speaks. (Courtesy of Ford / Fox News)

Crystal Becker, the surviving spouse of Staff Sergeant Shane Becker, attended the event with their two daughters, Cierra and Cheyenna. The event gave the Gold Star family, who are members of TAPS, a chance to enjoy off-roading and connect while enjoying an activity and vehicle that Shane had a history with.


"I really wanted to watch them experience this because, for me, I get to see them enjoying the same things that their dad enjoyed and that just really meant a lot for me and that's part of keeping his spirit alive," Crystal said.

She explained that she and Shane had a Ford Bronco that they would work on but had to sell after the birth of one of their daughters.

Blue Star Families Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo

Groups that participated in the event included Blue Star Families, Guitars 4 Vets, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Travis Manion Foundation, Team Rubicon, Veteran Customer Advocates and Fords own Veteran Employee Network. (Courtesy of Ford / Fox News)


"When TAPS called I thought, what a crazy, awesome thing to get to go do – to take my daughters to go do something that their dad just would've loved to do, and did, so what other choice was there," Becker said.