The 38th Annual East Coast Military Vehicle Show and Flea Market took place at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen on May 12, 13 and 14, and two members of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) were in attendance, displaying their collections – Dean Hansen and Tom Buonaugurio.
Hansen and Buonaugurio are both members of the Washington Area Collectors/Blue and Gray Military Vehicle Trust, a local chapter of the national Military Vehicle Preservation Association with approximately 180 members in Maryland, Washington and Virginia and more than 15,000 members nationwide.
“It’s basically an old car club, but everybody collects military vehicles,” Buonaugurio said.
The primary purpose of the annual event is to serve the community. Each year proceeds from the event are donated to the Aberdeen Proving Ground Military Museum, the Wounded Warrior Clinic, United Service Organizations and the Soldiers Sailor Airmen Home. In addition, throughout the year, members of the club donate their vehicles to local and national parades and ceremonies, transport veterans to and from their homes and even showcase their collections in military movies.
“The national organization is also into the history aspect of it to maintain these vehicles. If someone didn’t do it you would only see them in a few rare museums,” Hansen said.
Both Hansen and Buonaugurio have been involved with collecting military vehicles for about 15 years, although they each started for different reasons.
“I just think the vehicles are really neat vehicles,” Hansen said. “The technology is cool and the history that goes along with them is really interesting. I was a military brat so I’ve been around the vehicles my entire life; to think that you can own one is a thrilling opportunity. I used to love riding them when I was in the military, but the military is cautious and limits the operation of them. When you own a vehicle yourself you can do whatever you want with it.”
For Buonaugurio, the attraction is more about the people than the machinery.
“I was into convertibles, regular convertibles like Mustangs and the MG. I bought my first military jeep on a lark,” Buonaugurio said. “I enjoyed the people who were involved with collecting military vehicles so much that I got rid of my civilian collection and went completely to the military side. Later, the philanthropic aspect of the sub-culture became an attraction for me. Being able to give back to the community makes me feel good. It started with the vehicle and then it just grew from there.”
Hansen currently has just one item in his collection, an almost fully accessorized Unimog.
“My wife won’t let me have a motor pool in the driveway,” Hansen said jokingly.
Buonaugurio has several items: a duck, which is like an amphibious truck; a schwimmwagen, an amphibious World War II vehicle; and a British airborne bicycle.
“When a person walks through the aisles of the expo, they can see 100, maybe 200 military vehicles of all types, from motorcycles up to half-tracks,” Buonaugurio said. “Sometimes people trailer in strange things like helicopters, so if you’re into militaria, those visual sites are very exciting.”
Each year, the show also boasts a 15-acre military flea market where attendees can buy anything from packs and bags to insignia, ribbons, uniforms and vehicle parts.
Beyond the collections, the camaraderie between the collectors, the philanthropic spirit and the resilient preservation of the military vehicles is, as Buonaugurio noted, inspiring.
“The military vehicles represent the contributions of our citizens and our solders in defending this country,” he said. “The jeeps and trucks won the war for democracy, won the Cold War and are winning the war against terrorism. Many of them are artifacts that would be gone without us; they would probably end up in a scrap heap at a local salvage yard.”For more information about the show, please visit www.militaryvehicleshow.com.