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Tank Turnaround

Spray cans of paint matched to the Army’s olive drab. Several gallons of rust converter. Miscellaneous equipment.

     Just add many hours of hard work and dedication.

     That proved the recipe for giving a facelift to a retired U.S. Army battle tank located in front of Brookhaven’s VFW Post 2618 on Industrial Park Road.

     The facelift came courtesy a retired member of the U.S. Army, VFW Commander Billy Hughes.

     Hughes and his tanks go way back.

     Hughes joined the U.S. Army in 1948. He trained soldiers in amphibious assault in the Caribbean and was in the military police at Panama, but he also drove the tank affectionately known as the “Walker Bulldog,” an M41 named after Gen. Walton Walker.

     “I took a liking to tanks,” Hughes said.

     The tank at the VFW is an M60A3, placed at Brookhaven’s VFW post by the Army in July 1997, Hughes said.

     However, the post members are obligated to maintain the condition of the tank and Hughes said maintenance was long overdue. He sees two reasons for the lapse.

     “The weather has taken its toll on the tank and the years have taken a toll on the caregivers,” Hughes said.

     So back in August, Hughes and fellow VFW member R.E. Nettles got to work. The group doesn’t have much youth anymore (“Our youngest member is 68,” Hughes noted), but Nettles and Hughes possess a vigor that belies their years.

     The August heat couldn’t keep them away and the two were painting the creamy rust converter across the portions of the tank where rust had spread out like a thick scab.

     They also power washed the tank down, and scraped the paint off, stripping through layers of grime, dirt, paint and weather.

     With a can of spray paint procured from the local National Guard Armory, Hughes got a local paint shop to match the color and repainted the body of the tank a few weeks ago. The painting job took him about four hours, Hughes said.

     Hughes noted the M60 series was a highly successful battle tank.

     “Wasn’t the fasted, but an all-around good tank,” Hughes said.

     The original M60 entered service in 1960 and the M60A3 models (like the one at Brookhaven’s VFW post) took the field in 1978 and remained there until 1997 when it was replaced by the M1 Abrams.

     M60 models remain popular in other countries, however.

     The tank has proved a popular attraction at VFW Post 2618. Hughes said it’s pretty common to see people stop and look at it or take pictures.

     Hughes is just glad to have the tank restoration behind him. He’s been commander of the VFW post about six years and it already thinking about his next projects, both at the post and at home.

     “I never did like to sit around and do nothing,” Hughes said.