DETROIT - A boyhood hobby has become a powerful way for one local man to thank veterans -- building models.
"By doing this I at least want to show my appreciation for what they did for us," said Sean Tracy.
"I simply offer them a model of their choice of the plane, tank (or) ship they sailed on," Tracy said.
He calls his mission the Veterans Model Project.
"This is a B-24 Liberator," Tracy said as he placed the model on his desk. "It was believed impossible to build a Liberator within an hour."
In World War II B-24s rolled off the assembly line at Willow Run.
Now at his Wixom home, Tracy runs a miniaturized factory, with a workforce of one.
Tracy is quick to point out that models are not like toys. The work is tedious, consuming and often exasperating. Parts will snap or resist fitting and his fingers sometimes show blood as well as paint.
"The super glue just doesn't want to stick and it absolutely tries my patience," Tracy said.
The models require as few as 30 hours of work and as many as 300.
"I'm not your typical man," Tracy said. "I have no problem with instructions and I read them avidly. The way I see it, the right way is there aren't any seam lines where the two plastic pieces meet. The paint job is correct, accurate for the time period. You want interior details such as seat belts."
The veterans model project took off when Taylor built a B-24 for Sonny Eliot, who shot down in one.
"He saw his plane sitting there and all he could keep repeating was, 'That's my plane, that's my plane.'"
Taylor's models are now cherished by 150 vets or their families.
Taylor built a model of a helicopter for the daughter and wife of Roger Belcher, who served in the Army in Vietnam.
"To have someone honor their service and what they gave up and the years of aftereffects is such a great tribute and I'm so happy to have something to give to my mom," said Angie Winton, Belcher's daughter.
"I've had guys cry. I've had guys thank me a hundred times over," Tracy said. "Some want to pay but I wont take money from a veteran. I could really use some donations, whatever I can get."
Tracy's growing bond with the old soldiers has inspired him to begin a career change from truck driver to caregiver for the elderly.
Although Tracy has never served in the military, he's devoted to his mission.
"I'm in absolute awe of them for what they went through, for what they accomplished. What I would like to see is every veteran who wants a model will get a model," Tracy said. "As long as I can see and my fingers work, that's my goal."
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