Ailing military vet has plenty to be thankful for, including a new Bronco
This Thanksgiving will be a special one for Marine Cpt. Rollin “Rollo” Jones. The military veteran, who has been fighting cancer that he believes he contracted while serving stateside, now has a new set of wheels to take him to receive treatment. He’s also made some new friends.
The former Combat Engineer Officer, who lives in Fife Lake, Michigan, wanted to buy a new Ford Bronco, but he was told that was virtually impossible if he hadn’t already ordered one. His wife, Brigid, and longtime friend Bruce Parker refused to go down without a fight, however, just like Rollo has done with his illness.
It all started when Jones, a Ford truck man, had to sell his F-150 because he barely drove it anymore. As he continued to undergo treatment, Jones dreamed of owning a new Bronco.
“I was looking for something that I’d have fun in,” says Jones, 59. “I kept following the Bronco news all [last] winter and then decided to go look, and [the dealership] told me if I hadn’t already ordered one, the earliest I could hope for would be 2024. I said to my wife, ‘I might not be here in 2024.’”
Brigid Jones and Bruce Parker leaped into action. Parker reached out to anyone that he thought might be able to help, and “Ask Hagerty” specialist Reggie Horning offered the name of a possible contact. Parker took it from there. Rollo knew his friend was up to something, but he had no expectations whatsoever.
“I kind of thought, ‘Oh, well, that’s OK. I tried,’” Jones says. “I’m in a precarious situation, health-wise. It’s not like I have only days to live, so I don’t want to overstate it, but since my lungs are especially compromised, I’m more susceptible to everything. Which means if I catch something, I could go pretty quick.
“Since I have a hard time breathing, I’m on oxygen pretty much all the time—or anytime I do anything active—so that’s why I thought I’d like to get [a vehicle] that’s fun and that would allow me to enjoy the outdoors … get out there in the woods without having to walk too much.”
Jones says the reality that he is sick—he was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) and has since had a bone marrow transplant—is kind of ironic.
“I was at Camp LeJeune [in North Carolina], and the water there was poisoned with Benzene and other chemicals. It’s a pretty big deal, and a lot of people have gotten sick,” he explains. “To think that I served three years of active duty, 16 years in the military, and also in the reserves, and it was the water that got me.”
Jones has fought chronic rejection since his bone transplant four years ago, and childhood friend Parker says he felt compelled to help, even after Rollo was told that scoring a new Bronco was impossible. “It was his dream to own one, so I had to try,” Parker says. “It just warms my heart and brings tears of joy to my eyes that this has come together.”
On November 11, Veteran’s Day, Cpt. Jones received a call from LaFontaine Ford in Flushing, Michigan, asking him to come down and visit their dealership. Sales manager Dave Manges was the point person, and he knew that Jones had been told that purchasing a new Bronco was impossible. With the help of Ford Motor Company media manager Jiyan Cadiz and LaFontaine corporate communications senior manager Max Muncey, the impossible dream was about to come true. Manges was the lucky one who got to deliver the news.
Rollo and Brigid Jones visited LaFontaine on a Saturday, and by Tuesday they were on their way to pick up Rollo’s new Antimatter Blue, four-door 2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks Edition.
“It was such a great experience for all of us,” Manges says. “Cpt. Jones and I are close in age, and I felt a bond with him. He had a dream, and it was fun to help make it come true. I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and this is one of those special experiences that I feel fortunate to be part of.”
Jones says the Bronco will provide a comfortable ride for him as he drives 440 miles roundtrip to receive treatment at the University of Michigan Medical Center every two weeks. “Plus, we go to Florida in the winter to make things a little easier on me, so it’ll be fun to put the top down and take it to the beach. It’s kind of my last chance to be cool,” he jokes.
Jones points out that the Bronco was not a gift, although it feels like one. “They were kind enough to sell it to me for sticker, and I know a lot of dealers are marking them up pretty high.”
LaFontaine turned Rollo’s big day into a celebration of his many years of military service. “They were top notch,” Jones says. “Dave Manges and Jiyan Cadiz were great, and Peter LaFontaine came to meet me. They made a big deal out of it and treated us like celebrities. It was amazing. It really felt like family there.”
Speaking of families, Cpt. Jones says his is “a proud military” one. Rollo and Brigid’s son Charlie was wounded in Afghanistan and now serves as a conservation officer, and their son Michael currently serves as a Naval flight officer. The couple’s oldest child, daughter Allie Gray, is a fruit farmer.
Rollo says he can’t begin to thank every person who had a hand in making his dream come true, but he knows there are likely more than he knows about.
“This has been so amazing. I’m elated,” he says. “I’m not really into material things; I’m more about experiencing life and enjoying every day, and this gives me the chance to do that. We all know what it feels like on Christmas morning when you get something so amazing that you just can’t believe it’s real. That’s what this is. I’m just very thankful for everything and for everyone who helped.”
We think we speak for all by saying it was our pleasure.