BOSTON - Surrounded by gleaming exotic cars, trucks and motorcycles at the World of Wheels auto show here, sat a fallen hero's beat up 1988 Ford Mustang GT. Onlookers, glancing at the car, were puzzled until Sgt. Fabio Falorni, a member of the 26th Signal Battalion of the Massachusetts National Guard, approached them and explained the story behind the Mustang.
The car had belonged to Special Forces Maj. Jeff Calero, who was killed by the blast from an IED on October 29, 2007 while on a combat reconnaissance patrol in Kajaki, Afghanistan. His fellow Soldiers said the Mustang was a love of Calero's and he had dreams of restoring it.
One year later to the date of Calero's death, Falorni, a Mustang enthusiast, noticed the car sitting in a fenced in area behind the National Guard armory in Springfield, Mass., while he was there picking up supplies for his unit.
"It was an eerie feeling. I felt like someone was pushing me or leading me to the car," said Falorni.
Falorni asked some of the Soldiers in the armory about the Mustang. They told him that the car had belonged to Calero and upon his passing, the family was unsure what to do with the car. It remained at the armory where Calero parked it when he deployed to Afghanistan in 2006. The commander of the armory was planning to have the car towed away since the family didn't want it.
Falorni asked permission from Calero's family and the commander of the armory to restore the car. After ten anxious days of waiting for a reply from Calero's unit and family, he was granted permission to pick up the car.
Falorni reached out to his fellow Mustang enthusiasts, through Internet forums and Mustang clubs in the area, to recruit their help in restoring the car. The response was overwhelming.
"I had no idea I would get over several hundred responses overnight,” said Falorni.
Carol Meyer, a Mustang enthusiast from Marlborough, joined Falorni on his mission to restore the car.
"I'm a huge supporter of the troops. I have a lot of family members overseas. It is nice to send care packages and stuff, but this is a way to give back for the ultimate price paid by Major Calero. It's a gift, and I just had to do it. All this Mustang knowledge I have I wanted to put it to better use. What better cause than to rebuild somebody's dream like his!" Meyer said.
The team leaders for the project, Falorni, Meyer, and Ed Yessian of Tewksbury, decided to put the car on display to help promote the restoration project. The team was on hand at the auto show with the Mustang to talk about the project and honor Calero for his service to his country.
Falorni spoke to members of Calero’s unit while planning the restoration of the car.
"They said he was very enthusiastic about fixing the car up; he wanted new tires and rims; he wanted the air conditioning to work; he wanted to fix all the leaks that the car had; he also wanted to spruce up the interior and get a new stereo system. Basically, that is what we are going to do. We are going to repaint the car and redo the interior and put new tires and rims. We have a new engine and a new transmission for it," said Falorni.
The team estimates the cost of restoring the Mustang will be around $20,000, and is planning on future events involving the restored Mustang.
"We are going to be racing it at New England Dragway in late April. Hopefully, we will have most of the car done by then. We are going to have a memorial day for it."
This summer the project team leaders plan on presenting the car to the Calero family. If not, the car will go to auction and the proceeds will go to the Maj. Jeffery Calero Scholarship Fund for the high school he attended in Queens, N.Y.
The restoration team is planning on selling tee shirts and wristbands to raise funds to help them complete the project. All those proceeds will go to the restoration of the car. Money raised over the amount needed for the restoration will be donated to the Maj. Jeff Calero Scholarship Fund.
To read more about the project and follow the Mustang's progress of completion, and to donated to the project, visit www.projectfallenhero.com.