Marine Corps Air Statoin Cherry Point --
Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 returned with the remainder of their Marines from Afghanistan May 7, and celebrated the homecoming by flying five of their EA-6B Prowlers in a V-formation over family and friends who waited below.
In the center of the hangar sat another Prowler of a different kind. It was a refurbished, Prowler themed, 69’ Volkswagen Baja Bug to commemorate one of VMAQ-1’s fallen Marines.
June 6, 2009, Cpl. Buddy Collison, an electrician with VMAQ-1, died in a car accident on Catfish Lake Road.
“Buddy and I had planned to build a Baja Bug, and talked a lot about it,” said Andy Collison, Buddy’s father and a former Marine.
After the accident, family, friends and VMAQ-1 Marines wanted to honor Buddy for what he stood for and loved.
In November, the Collison family bought a Baja Bug, and decided to make it a project in memory of Buddy, explained Andy.
“We decided to do an aircraft theme from an idea that actually came from the painter we hired,” said Andy.
From there the family got in touch with Lt. Col. Scott Cooper, the commanding officer of VMAQ-1, to discuss the idea and plan the project.
“They put together switches and relays, and gave us some templates,” said Andy, “making the bug mirror a Prowler at all angles, from the banshee logo flaring on the backseat window to the sheet metal emulating a paint design.”
The theme seemed fitting for VMAQ-1’s fallen Marine.
“Buddy loved planes from a young age,” said Buddy’s mother, Kelly J. Collison.
Marines from VMAQ-1 were fond of the Prowler themed Bug.
“It is a great memorial to a great Marine,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael L. Youngblood, the maintenance control staff noncommissioned officer in charge..
Youngblood added that he was intrigued by their ability to implement aircraft parts into the car.
Buddy would have loved the fact that 40 people worked on the car, because he loved being around people, said his mother, Kelly.
This unique type of memorial allowed Buddy’s friends and family to rally together to honor and pay tribute to Buddy.
“This gives us an opportunity to talk about what a great young man he was; how he loved people and how he was a go-to guy in his shop,” said Andy.
The Collison family also wanted to use the Bug to shed light on the Donate Life organization, putting Donate Life stickers in multiple areas of the car, because Buddy was a donor.
Buddy’s love for people stretched beyond those who knew him.
“Three people received life-saving transplants from Buddy,” said Andy.
The Prowler-Bug project created new memories and in a way gave rebirth to a young Marine who touched the lives of so many, said Andy.
During the transformation from Baja Bug to Prowler, every piece was taken apart.
“Every bolt, every screw, every part came off and was reassembled, said Andy.
The entire Buddy Baja Bug project can be seen, from start to finish, online at https://www.racollison.com/buddybug.