Marine LCpl Wesley Canning knew he was going to be a Marine. After September 11th, he wanted to give back to the country he loved so much and he began talking with recruiters. “When he enlisted, it scared the crap out of our parents,” his sister Amanda says with a laugh, but they knew it was where his heart was.
Wes became an AmTracker; a crew member on a tracked amphibious vehicle. “It can be used for troop transport, as a shuttle, as an attack vehicle,” Amanda points out. “It’s not actually a tank, but because it has tracks, lots of people call it a tank.” So Wes laced up his boots and did his first tour of duty in Iraq, came home and got married. Then in 2004, he went back for his second tour. Sadly, he lost his life on November 10, 2004.
This is NOT your typical tear-jerker story though. Through his sister, Wes’ memory is as strong now as ever. Amanda has made it her mission to remember her brother and share his story by creating a tribute car in his honor. Starting with a 2014 Dodge Charger, she had it wrapped with special graphics, but “two weeks later, the car was totalled in an accident!” says Amanda. “We believe that Wes didn’t like the way it turned out, so he gave us a nudge to start over.” (She giggles at that!)
That nudge got Amanda into a 2016 Dodge Charger and she went back to work with her designer, Shawn Wesson of DBS Graphics in Corpus Christi, Texas. “The new car was a better canvas for this project,” says Amanda. They were able to incorporate a number of important pieces, including the Marine Corp emblem, Wes’ unit patch and a tribute to his dog tags. Camouflage, the American flag. There’s also his silhouette holding up the American flag that was taken from an actual photograph of him overseas, similar to that famous picture from Iwo Jima. Everywhere you look on the car, there are reminders of Wes and what he believed in. The roof features a Gold Star flag representing those killed in action. “Because he was an AmTracker, the side of the car has tracks inspiring the name on my Instagram page: GoldStarTank.”
It’s important to point out that the whole time we are talking, I can hear the pride in Amanda’s voice; the excitement to tell Wes’ story is strong. I asked about driving the car in public, you don’t exactly sneak up on someone in a vehicle this bold. “Oh, I was hoping it would affect people. It turns heads every time I drive it! Not everyone knows what it means though and often they’re afraid to ask.” Luckily, Amanda has plenty of personality and isn’t afraid to chat. “Once we talk, they say ‘OMG, she’s so nice.’” That’s a benefit in the small Texas town she lives in, but just as important when she’s out on the open road. “I drove it across Texas for grandma’s 80th birthday.” And her plans are to continue to drive it. “I’m going on a cross-country trip later this summer, headed to Rhode Island. It’s the best road trip car because it’s big and comfortable. Dad is a Challenger guy, but I love this Charger!”
Amanda posted on her profile that “Every day is Memorial Day for me” and that’s easy to see when her daily driver is a tribute to a proud Marine. “Dad made a deal with Wes; that he’d be the proudest Marine Corp father ever. So I’m going to be the BEST Marine Corp sister I could ever be…because you can’t let the memory die. It isn’t my car, it’s Wes’!”
You can follow Amanda’s adventures in Wes’ Dodge Charger at www.Instagram.com/GoldStarTank