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In the Pipeline: Local team helps Marine in need

January 21, 2014|By Chris Epting
  • Cpl. Bradley Diaz from Camp Pendleton, in front of his new Honda.
Cpl. Bradley Diaz from Camp Pendleton, in front of his… (Chris Epting )

Cpl. Bradley Diaz is a 25-year-old firing range coach and Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton. Last week, he got a full dose of Huntington Beach hospitality and generosity, and I'm so happy that I was able to witness it.

Earlier this year, Diaz, who served in Afghanistan, was injured in a Jeep accident while driving on the base. It occurred on his daughter's second birthday, and the vehicle, the family car, was totaled.

Mark Biddle, a onetime active Marine who works at the Farmers Insurance Group, recently became interested in Operation Homefront, an organization that provides emergency assistance for U.S. military troops.

Biddle heard about Diaz, and the search was on for a vehicle to replace the Jeep.

Last week, at Gustafson Brothers auto repair shop in Huntington Beach, a car was presented to Diaz.

Biddle had approached the popular local company to see if it would do the needed repairs on a Honda that had been recovered for Diaz. As Monte Gaustad from Gustafson told me, it was a no-brainer.

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"We're all about supporting the military, and we're a very pro-American company, so we were proud to get involved with this," Gaustad said.

I first heard about this from my friend Cynthia Varnell, who also works at Gustafson. She explained to me that Farmer's Insurance donated a "total loss" vehicle instead of selling it to a salvage yard, and because of a great working relationship with Gustafson, asked if the company would do the collision repair.

So Gustafson Brothers donated more than $7,000 in body work to fix up the Honda, which now looks brand new.

Parts were donated by local vendor LKQ and paint by PPG. Mel Craig, who heads up the Detailing Pros, gave the car a complete once-over. This was truly a local team effort.

Diaz was driven up to Huntington Beach by his sister and met by Biddle, Rod Windes and Bob Ruddy from Farmer's, along with several other local representatives and employees from the shop.

Modest and respectful when I spoke with him, Diaz expressed genuine thanks to all who made this possible. It wasn't until afterward that I heard about the severity of his accident and how close he came to losing his leg, which now has a two-foot long metal rod in it.

When asked about the incident, Diaz had offered no details but just smiled and shrugged it off — a testament to the toughness of these men and women who serve us so well.

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