Help Morristown Teen 'Fill A Willys Jeep' For Local Veterans

MORRISTOWN, NJ — A local teenager, who is the grandson of a World War II veteran, has spearheaded a donation campaign to give back to those who have served. Morristown High School junior Nicholas Heusel is collecting supplies and donations for the “Help Me Fill a Willy’s Jeep” campaign, to deliver them to veterans at a local VA medical center.

The Willys MB was used by the U.S. Army and the Allied forces in World War II – including by Nicholas’s grandfather, a veteran who served with the 78th Infantry Division.

The donation drive will run through March 31, with donation bins in the school lobby of Morristown High School and through Amazon, where Heusel set up a wish list (see below for more details on what is most needed).

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In an interview with Patch on Thursday, Nicholas and his mother Michele estimated they almost have enough donations to fill two of the 4×4 utility vehicles — and counting.

“The local families and high school students, they’ve been collecting (for it),” Michele said. “Every week, he comes home with the bin filled.”

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Nicholas is a swimmer for Morristown and also in their rocketry club. He said he would like to study mechanical engineering in the future, and he’s had an interest in military vehicles and history “since I was about five years old.”

This interest in military vehicles, as well as a drive to give back to the community, are things Nicholas and Michele can trace through the generations.

Michele’s father, Dr. Robert Newhouse, laid communication lines during World War II and also fought in the Ardennes Offensive – also known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Nicholas’s other grandfather Warren Heusel- who passed away when his father was only 11 – was an avid builder of models of World War II tanks, ships, and planes.

About three years ago, Nicholas joined the Budd Lake-based Military Transport Association, a nonprofit for people with an interest in collecting, restoring, and operating historic military vehicles. He said the MTA members have been very supportive of his idea to organize a convoy from Morristown to the Lyons VA Medical Center in Bernards Township, which he hopes to do this April.

Nicholas said the idea for this donation drive started with a project for English class, where he considered buying and restoring a Willys Jeep – but he could not find a suitable one in his price range.

“I moved to what else I can do to give back to the veterans and have it pertain to something I’m interested in,” he explained, and came up with the “Fill a Willys Jeep” idea with his mom – not for English class, but as a way to help those who have served.

Fill a Willy’s Jeep Flyer – courtesy Michele Heusel by Michelle Rotuno-Johnson on Scribd

He is doing this drive for veterans as a solo community service project — though he has plenty of support from family, classmates, and fellow MTA members. The club has also pledged $500 for his fundraiser, and Nicholas said members have offered to be part of the convoy.

“The MTA board is very proud of Nicholas and his eagerness to support veteran causes,“ MTA president Gary Schultz said in a statement.

Nicholas said several of the club members have brought him in to work on Willys Jeeps and other military vehicles, as well. Last year, the MTA organized a private showing at the Military Technology Museum of New Jersey and Nicholas brought his grandfather Newhouse along.

There was a Willys Jeep from World War II there, which the museum asked Newhouse to sign with his name and division — see photos that the museum posted here.

Newhouse has been a member of the Florham Park Volunteer Fire Department for almost 70 years, and will celebrate his 100th birthday in June. He and his wife are still active in several historical societies. Newhouse was also the first Florham Park Recreation Director, and became an educator and principal after getting his doctorate degree from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

“Volunteerism is very important to our family,” Michele said. “It’s something Nick has seen through our family.”

The New York Mets also honored Newhouse as “Veteran of the Game” in 2022 when he and his family were invited to an “Old Timers’ Game” against the Colorado Rockies. That is a particularly special memory for the family because Nicholas’s uncle Steve Trachsel, a former pitcher for the Mets, played in that game.

Nicholas credits Newhouse for being a constant presence in his life – from their time building sandcastles on the Jersey Shore when he was younger until now, as Nicholas is organizing a fundraiser around the military vehicle his grandfather once used to lay communication cables overseas.

“He’s been really big at teaching me patience, and he’s always been a supportive figure,” Nicholas said.

The “Help me Fill a Willy’s Jeep” campaign runs through March 31. Donations can be dropped off at the school lobby of Morristown High School (50 Early St, Morristown, NJ), or made through Amazon. The items will be delivered to the VA Medical Center in Lyons, which has about 310 residents- including 20 women.

The most-needed items include full-sized personal care items; new clothing, socks, and underwear; books, puzzles, games, and art supplies; blankets and robes; and gift cards (American Express, Visa, McDonald’s, Dunkin’, et cetera).

For more information, email Nicholas at

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