A Drive to Awareness

AFJROTC Hosts Car Show, Cookout


Aahana Mulchandani

Flag flying high in the background, Veteran Rock Snyder stands with his vehicle at the cookout. Snyder wants to spread awareness about PTSD, a mental condition that he has to overcome. “You know, reach out to one person who may have a friend or a loved one with this and it saves their life,” Snyder said. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Aahana Mulchandani, Reporter

With a silent auction, toy shops and truckloads of food, the Leander Car Show and Cookout took place mid April. This event was hosted by the AFJROTC Booster club, and all proceeds were used to help the McNeil High School students who are cadets in the AFJROTC program.

“This was all a team effort between the booster club board members and LHS AFJROTC staff cadets,” Michelle Tanksley, Treasurer of the AFJORTC Booster club, said. “We also received sponsorships for the event in addition to items for our silent auction. In addition, we had some vendors come out to sell items such as patriotic t-shirts, hot wheels and some of our sponsors had vendor tables as well to promote their businesses.”

Custom Cars winner Eric Avalos explained the extensive process behind his award-winning car. He said he spends much of his time thoroughly cleaning his car. For car shows, the vehicles need to be practically spotless.

“It takes about three days to clean it,” Avalos said. “Maintenance is like a regular car, you have your normal problems like your alternators and your starters, but it’s very simple to work on.”

This isn’t his first time competing in a car show. He won best engine in a previous car show in Dallas two years ago with the same car.

“I just moved from Dallas to Austin,” Avalos said. “I just entered it in classic cars, but only custom today.”

Aside from the entertainment and the various assortment of vehicles filling the Leander High School parking lot, there was one car that had a meaningful message. Rock Snyder, a war veteran who previously served in Iraq, pulled up in his car to spread awareness about PTSD, a mental health condition that is prevalent in people who served in the military, as well as ordinary people who have gone through a traumatic event. According to Snyder, 30% of Vietnam veterans, 12% of Iraqi veterans and 20% of Iraqi freedom veterans suffer from PTSD. Of those percentages, 22 veterans every single day take their own lives.

I can’t be around fireworks because of the loud bang,” Snyder said. “I have trouble going in convenience stores and I can’t go in the convenience stores because it takes me to flashbacks of accents of people in Iraq.”

Snyder goes to many car shows in order to spread his message, having conversations with people who can relate to what he himself is going through. In front of his car, he keeps a donation box where he collects donations for PTSD organizations. 

“The proceeds that I collect from the donation box, some of it goes to rebuy or buying new wristbands and keychains that I give away for free at the car,” Snyder said.  “Other donations go towards Valhalla, which is a PTSD organization.”

The war veteran’s mission is to make people aware of this mental health condition and most of all: making the message clear that people with this condition aren’t alone. 

“I want them to realize that they don’t have to deal with this on their own,” Snyder said. “There are places out there that they can reach out to and get help. They’re never going to be completely rid of it.”

Snyder himself is diagnosed with PTSD, and through his struggles with it, he has also found ways to overcome his severe traumas, rising above it in order to help spread the message and reaching to people who are diagnosed with it.

“Before I got my service dog, I couldn’t even go out my own front door,” Snyder said. “But with him I’m able to do stuff like this to help and hopefully reach out to other people who are having the same issues.”

Snyder says that people can support him and his cause by going to his GoFundMe, as none of the funds that are received are used for personal reasons. His GoFundMe is under “Rocky Snyder,” and donating to his cause will allow organizations like Valhalla, a nonprofit organization that specializes in helping people with PTSD.

“You don’t have to hide your house,” Snyder said. “You don’t have to feel ashamed. People are out there to help you all you got to do is reach out and ask.”