FTE Member’s Ford F-350 Build Is a Rolling Tribute to Our Veterans
We dial up Brian Schader, owner of this incredible F-350 and founder of The Trees in Honor Project, to get the scoop on his important work.
Here at Ford Truck Enthusiasts, we feature veteran builds and tribute vehicles every chance we get. We recognize the importance of honoring our nation’s heroes, of course. But we also feel that it’s important to highlight the many incredible folks doing good things in our own little community. So, when we came across a man named Brian Schader, the story of his Ford F-350 build, and his non-profit organization The Trees in Honor Project, we knew they were deserving of the spotlight.
The Trees in Honor Project is relatively new, having started back in 2015. With the help of gracious donors, Schader’s goal is to create a nationwide series of touching memorials, featuring one or more trees, that pay tribute to all the veterans and fallen heroes in each respective community.
Schader is a mostly self-taught artist who clearly has a passion for helping others. In addition to his art career, he’s also a longtime American Red Cross volunteer. And just as notable, he’s also an avid automotive enthusiast and FTE forums member who sought help from our community for his amazing Ford F-350 build. We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Schader to get the scoop on his important charitable efforts — and of course, all the details on his awesome truck!
Ford Truck Enthusiasts: How did you come up with the idea for the Trees in Honor Project, and what it’s all about?
Brian Schader: It started as a “what are you thankful for” conversation on Thanksgiving back in 2015. And starting that day, we’ve been fine-tuning a concept to honor, educate, and inspire while raising money for our veterans. It’s always been about creating an uplifting place for cities to specifically honor their local veterans — an artistic visual reminder of how thankful we should all be to live in this country.
We have lots of veterans memorials and they are extremely important, but they are often somber. The importance of understanding the sacrifices our service personnel have made is obviously vital, but our mission is to add to the uplifting and inspiring aspects of these places. We want to create life-size silver tree sculptures with dog tags as leaves for community parks and veterans memorials. They’ll be huge wind chimes made up of thousands of shimmering dog tags, so they’ll definitely be a beautiful sight. The tags depict the golden leaves of fall, in honor of our fallen soldiers.
We debuted the model in August 2016 at a sculpture show in Colorado to an audience of about 20,000. The response was pretty overwhelming, and many of the people were moved to tears.
The Trees in Honor project isn’t just designed to create memorials. It’s a multi-faceted idea with a number of goals, correct?
Absolutely. This project has so many community and social benefits. Initially, people will see it as a tribute and a memorial, but upon further inspection they’ll come to understand it has an amazing ability to educate, inspire, and bring together communities.
‘We have lots of veterans memorials & they are extremely important, but they’re often somber. Our mission is to add to the uplifting & inspiring aspects of these places.’
As far as financial benefit, once a tree’s installation has been sponsored by a corporation or by individuals, the tree is turned over to the community and all the funds raised by tag sponsorship will go to their local veterans programs. So, more money ends up where it’s supposed to, and veterans can be honored by having their name on something in their own hometown.
Your awesome Ford F-350 plays a big role in the project, too. Where did the inspiration for this custom build come from?
A love of all things Ford and diesel, I guess! This truck has been my art-delivery truck for 10 years. I bought it used back in 2008 with 201k miles.
What made you choose the Ford F-350 as the basis for your project?
I needed something to pull heavy trailers full of steel for my sculptures. Also, I wanted a Ford since my very first truck, when I was 15, was a 1971 Ford F-100 that I worked on for almost a year before I was old enough to drive it. I loved that truck. I’ve had a few Chevys and an import or two, but when it comes to trucks, nobody builds a tougher truck than Ford. Period.