When I ran into Lee Brice right before his Saturday night (April 2) appearance at the ACM Party for a Cause Festival in Las Vegas, I asked him about what his set would be like, if he was doing any duets or cover songs … and that kind of thing.
But all he wanted to talk about was the surprise he had in store for Ginger Gurley Gilbert Ravella, whose husband, Troy Gilbert, was killed in action in Iraq in 2006.
Last year, she had the chance to tell Brice that his song, “I Drive Your Truck,” meant so much to her because her husband was forced to sell his third generation family-owned truck before his final deployment.
And it took a while, but Brice found that 1992 Chevy Silverado 1500. He bought it back, cleaned it up and, on Saturday night, they drove it on stage to give it back to Ravella.
I was crying when Brice told me what he was planning before he’d even gone through with it.
Ravella posted on Facebook after the show.
“I am still struggling to find the words, but I am getting inundated with sweet messages and posts about what happened last night here in Vegas at the ACM Party for a Cause. The long story will have to come later, but for now: Last summer during a Folds concert … Lee sang his song ‘I Drive Your Truck’ right before I spoke.
“He and I connected over the song, and I told him how much we, as fallen families, cling to pieces left of those we love. Troy traded in his old beloved truck for a new one about a month before he found out he was deploying. Things were starting to break on his old one, and he needed a reliable ride. Just a week before he took off for Iraq, he said ‘I think we need to sell my new truck. We really can’t afford to make payments while I am gone.'”
“So we sold it and he left. After he was killed, I was most certainly grateful Troy took another big thing off my plate after he was gone. Paying for that truck, trying to figure out what to do with it, etc. …
“Years later when Lee’s song came out, it wasn’t the new truck I wished we still had. It was the old one; — the one that belonged to Troy’s Dad first, the one Troy drove for years, the one I knew (my sons) Boston and Greyson would get a kick out of.”
When Ravella attended the ACM Party for a Cause, she thought she was there to accept a check for Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization that provides educational support to spouses and children of America’s fallen and wounded soldiers. Brice did present a $40,000 donation to the organization.
“I thought I was going on the big stage to accept a donation from the ACM to Folds of Honor,” Ravella wrote later. “Lee pulled us up on stage and started telling the story from last summer, then turned to me and said, ‘We found Troy’s old truck.’ The crowd went wild. My kids and I just stood there in disbelief when Lee asked us to look at the huge teletron screen.
“There it was — a photo of Troy’s truck. Then he said, ‘It’s parked out back.’ We all went together past the stage, the lights, the crowds, and it sat there waiting to be returned to its home and to the kids of a hero.”
“I cannot express the deepest places my soul has been touched. I woke up this morning and cried into my pillow as the whole evening played over and over in my heart. The humble gratitude I feel is almost unbearable,” Ravella wrote. “How could I ever repay such a debt as this to so much people? God’s tender love and compassion for our loss continues to overwhelm me.”
I hope that when she first got back in that truck, Ravella rolled every window down and that the radio was still playing the same old country station where her husband left it.