SAN ANTONIO — It was a night to salute champions at Samuel V. Champion High School.
An emotional Boerne community joined students, faculty and celebrity personality Jesse James in the shop garage of the school Friday night. There, welding students presented retired Army Specialist Michael Crawford with a custom mobile hunting blind trailer.
The trailer was 100% student-made and fully funded through the Military Warriors Support Foundation.
"We want to leave him here today feeling like the number one person in the world," said Brandon Rodriguez, one of those welding students.
Crawford was disabled in Afghanistan when his truck encountered an improvised explosive device (IED). He was one of only two to survive, incurring several injuries in the process.
He was medically retired in 2014, after receiving a Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal. On Friday night, the Champion High School welding students and Boerne community showered him with gifts in honor of his service and National Military Appreciation Month.
Among them: A hunting trailer that Crawford would be able to access with his wheelchair, so that the hero can return to one of his favorite hobbies.
“The kids were learning how to weld and do vinyl and all of that, but the biggest value of it was to learn that our cemeteries in America are full of 18-year-old kids that aren’t very far off from these students that fought and died for our freedoms and it’s very important to give back to that,” said Dorman Vick, Champion High School welding instructor.
Crawford tested out the trailer in his wheelchair for the first time after the big reveal. Inside were platforms allowing for tripods to hold his gun while hunting.
He said his lack of mobility made hunting nearly impossible before, but he was all smiles Friday night about getting back to the ranch.
“I was expecting a plain-Jane setup. (The students) might as well be professionals, because this is spot on,” Crawford said. “I can really see that they went above and beyond the call of duty.”
James made a surprise visit and gifted Crawford a souvenir rifle he personally welded. James is known for his roles on national TV shows such as Monster Garage, and for popular brands like West Coast Choppers.