Thomas Rak Jr., bought a stock Jeep Wrangler and said he only intended on installing a Bull Bar. But like any PowerBlock fan, he couldn’t just stop there.
“I had a family member who knew of someone who builds Jeeps, and introduced me to John Turek of AAS Custom Jeep in Astonia, CT,” Thomas said. “He showed me a bumper from Poison Spyder, the Rock Brawler, which I loved. … The obsession started.”
But his obsession would later become a symbol that pays homage to those who sacrificed their lives on September 11, 2012.
Thomas was born in raised in Derby, Connecticut, has been a fire fighter for 25 years, and currently works as a 911 fire dispatcher at Milford Professional Telecommunicators in Milford, Connecticut. As his interest in modifying his Jeep grew, Thomas said that he wanted to do a 911-themed, educational Jeep.
That all changed when his friend’s wife asked him a question that ignited a new mission for Thomas.
“I ran into a friend, and I had a ‘Never Forget FDNY 343’ sticker on the Jeep. His wife asked me what that meant. I had to explain it to her, and right then I knew I had to do something to keep the word out …”
The FDNY 343 was comprised of firefighters, EMTs and paramedics who responded to the 9/11 attacks, and lost their lives during the rescue effort.
Thomas wanted to do everything he could to make sure that no one would forget the rescue missions of 9/11. He said that numerous fire fighters in his department went to New York after the attacks to help with the recovery efforts, and did it on their own time.
“We also had dedicated firefighters who went to pretty much all the funerals of the FDNY. This is burnt into the back of my head,” he said of the 2001 tragedy.
Thomas got help from his friend David Dixon, and an online forum, forbiddenjeeps.com. Thomas said he also started writing to companies to see if there was any way they could help with his build.
“I have a local machine shop which has donated everything from custom-made locks, laser engraved/cut brass logo on my ASE head bracket, and just finished welding my side steps on it.”
The Jeep mods are far from finished. Thomas says he plans on adding more firefighter memorabilia, including pictures and gear.
Those wanting to keep up with the progress of the Jeep can do so here: FDNY Jeep Wrangler Tribute.
Big thanks to Thomas for sharing his story.
[SlideDeck2 id=5032 iframe=1]