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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Staff Sgt. Ben Sorensen gets in his Chevy Blazer for the first time after arriving home from his deployment in Afghanistan. Sorensen's wife Brittany surprised him by getting his Chevy Blazer fixed up with donations from an auto parts company and repair shop.
Layton soldier welcomed home with fixed-up 1987 Chevy Blazer
Donations » Auto parts and mechanic shop donated parts, labor to get the engine running again.
First Published Mar 14 2013 02:18 pm • Last Updated Mar 15 2013 08:31 pm

Layton • Brittany Sorensen has hated her husband’s 1987 Chevrolet Blazer from the moment it appeared in their garage.

The cloth seats were ripped, the air conditioning broken. It wasn’t pretty. It was loud. It monopolized her husband’s time.

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But in the year since her husband, Staff Sgt. Ben Sorensen, left for Afghanistan, Brittany Sorensen undertook a covert operation of her own: fixing the ramshackle off-roader.

She did research, wrote letters and asked for help.

"I had no idea what to expect," she said. "I thought maybe we’d be lucky and get parts he could use to fix it up when he got home. It’s been so hard with him leaving on [military] tours. He never has the time."

Something about their story struck executives at California-based AutoPartsWarehouse.com. They decided to do more than donate parts — they upgraded the car in time for Ben Sorensen’s March 6 homecoming.

Stepping cautiously out of his wife’s car, Ben Sorensen took in the scene unfolding on his driveway:

American flags whipped in the winter wind as friends and family clamored to give hugs, pat his shoulder, welcome him home. Television camera crews and photographers zipped to and fro, watching his expression.

"My first thought was, ‘Uh-oh, what’s going on here?’" he said.

Then, he saw it: the big black truck under a white banner.

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Dave Bell, owner of Dave’s Complete Auto Service, which provided more than $2,000 worth of labor to fix the SUV, drove the Blazer out of the garage.

"We can’t do enough to support our military families," Bell said. "But after all the labor we put into this car — there were times I thought, gee whiz, let’s just buy this guy a new one."

He revved the engine, slipped out the open door and gestured to Sorensen: Get in.

Ben Sorensen grinned, squeezed his wife’s hand and climbed behind the wheel of "his baby."

Brittany Sorensen followed. They stole a brief kiss in the front seat as cameras flashed and onlookers cheered.

Driving around in old, busted trucks has been a staple of the couple’s nine-year relationship.

On one of their first dates in 2004, Ben Sorensen picked her up his prized ride: an ugly old car with torn carpet covering the floor and windows that leaked whenever it rained.

He took her mudding in the Salt Flats. They got soaked. Even with the windows shut.

"It leaked, it was loud, the paint job was awful — it was this tan color, but ugly tan," she said. "None of it mattered. As soon as he makes up his mind about something, that’s it. And his mind was made up: He was in love with that old truck."

They married in 2006 while Ben Sorensen was stationed in Germany. Brittany was 18 years old.

In the years since, Ben Sorensen spent a year in Iraq and a year in Afghanistan. He’s left for months at a time to complete Army training courses. He’s surprised his wife with unannounced visits home and unexpected adventures across the world.

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