San Jose Man Finds 70-Year-Old Suitcase: What's Inside Leads Him on Quest to Honor WWII Veterans

Chris Texiera has always been partial to restoring old Chevrolets, but he was happy to make an exception this time.

The 31-year-old from San Jose, who has spent much of his life with his head under the hood of classic cars, has been spending all his spare time lately working on a truck. A World War II-era, 2 1/2 ton, GMC truck.

When Chris Texiera was 10-years-old he says his grandfather, Tony, tried to tell him about his experience in World War II but broke down in tears. "It's just too hard," Chris remembers his grandfather saying.

Chris is the lead mechanic on the project for the Spirit of ‘45, a non profit dedicated to honoring the veterans of WWII. The group hopes to use the truck, once restored, to carry veterans in parades.

“It feels like it's one of those once and a lifetime chances to do something that you would probably never have a chance of doing,” he says.

In 2010, Chris' family discovered an old suitcase when cleaning out his late grandparent's home. Inside, perfectly preserved, was his grandfather's World War II uniform.

Chris’ says it’s not so much and automotive project, rather a historical one. And a very personal one, too.

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Chris’ grandfather, Tony Texiera, was a sergeant working the motor pool on a air base in England during World War II. That meant he spent his war years maintaining and repairing trucks exactly like the one Chris now works on.

Finding the uniform made Chris want to learn more about his grandfather's service, and eventually connected with the Spirit of 45, a non profit dedicated to honoring World War II veterans.

“I would never have thought in my entire life that I would be working on any military vehicle, let alone a truck my grandfather used to maintain day in and day out in World War II,” Chris says.

How Chris ended up in this spot was the result or serendipity.

Just a few years earlier, Chris’s grandmother had passed away and a suitcase was found tucked away in her hall closet. Inside was Chris’s late grandfather’s World War II uniform that he had never seen before. When he tried it on, it just so happened that it fit.

When members of the Spirit of 45 discovered an old WWII-era military truck on a farm in Hollister, Chris, a life-long classic car enthusiast, was the logical choice to lead the restoration.

Two months later that year, Chris wore his grandfather’s old uniform to the Spirit of ‘45 event and it was a hit. Receiving joyous reactions from spectators and veterans alike, Chris saw the pride that many people felt seeing him honor his grandfather in that way.

The following January, Chris began attending Spirit of ‘45 committee meetings, later becoming a committee member. When members of the group discovered the truck, rusting on a farm in Hollister, Chris was the natural choice to lead the restoration.

The truck restoration project is particularly meaningful for Chris, who's grandfather, as part of the motor pool on an air base in England during the way, maintained and repaired trucks just like the Chris is now restoring.

Chris says that his motivation to get the truck finished comes not only from the living veterans who will get to ride in the truck, but also from his late grandfather. Describing their relationship as being very close, he recounts spending time with him in the garage, talking and learning from him how to fix his bike.

With tears in his eyes, Chris describes his grandfather as “a great man,” and says that he’s probably smiling down on him with disbelief that the restoration project is finally coming together.

“It helps keep his memory alive,” Chris says. “I’m just happy to do it.”

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