ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The idea to transform an Orange County fire engine into a canvas to honor America’s military veterans actually started about a year ago with the inspiration of Battalion Chief Scott Egan.
On Monday, after weeks of rough sketches and measurements, veteran Orange County firefighter Sotero Martinez III went to work to bring the idea to life.
Martinez secured the beige camouflage and symbols of the five branches of the armed forces on the sides of the 30-foot engine, much like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
By Wednesday afternoon, the first side of the vets' engine had been completed.
News 6 was invited to join a handful of Orange County firefighters for a sneak peek of the ambitious Veterans Day project.
Orange County Firefighters Union President Andres Perez had seen photos but said seeing it in person was thrilling.
“We have over 150 members that were members or current members of the military and I think this is a good tribute to them," he said.
Perez said the union collected private funds to finance the project, which was approved by Chief James Fitzgerald.
The elaborate graphic design includes cameos of men in uniform on the side with the words ”In Honor of our Veterans” on the engine’s front doors.
Stephen Davis, a battalion chief who served in an Army infantry unit in Germany, said the graphics brought back proud memories.
“It really hit home," Davis said. “It brings back the times I served with those men and women.”
The vets engine is expected to make a quick debut Thursday night at 5:30 p.m. during the department’s second annual medal day ceremony at Full Sail Live.
The official public debut will follow Saturday during the Veterans Day Parade on Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando.
Davis said the engine represents the patriotic pulse of the community and will be permanently assigned to engine 57 on International Drive.
“It’s going to be used in various parts of the county, so we can showcase it for residents to see,” he said.
The graphic wrap material used is expected to last about 10 years.