Written by: Gregory A. Nauertz
I like to build things. Anything. Remodel the bathroom in my house. Rebuild an old motorcycle. I once built a bed for my grandson that looked like an old wooden railroad caboose. I enjoy taking some thought or idea and turning it into a reality. Soon after purchasing my first AR, one of our sons told me that he was thinking of building one. That planted the seed and the more I investigated the idea, the more intrigued I became. So, in the fall of 2016, I decided my next project would be to build an AR 15, from the ground up.
As I sat at my computer one day, doing research and ordering parts from various on-line sites, it occurred to me how extraordinary it was that I could sit here, click a few times, and eventually assemble a collection of components into a complete firearm. One that was all my idea, so to speak. That thought percolated for a few minutes and then I had another thought; Where else on earth could I be doing this? What other country has the FREEDOMS that we enjoy here in The United States of America that would allow me to do such a thing? And then I was struck by the most important thought of this internal dialogue…without these precious freedoms I couldn’t even get started. Period. And these freedoms are the direct result of The Constitution of the United States and, more importantly, the brave men and women who voluntarily put on the uniform and answer freedom’s call around the world. Every day they put themselves in harm’s way to protect and defend our precious freedoms! Some of them, as we know all too well, pay the ultimate price…
I personally knew and loved two such brave young men. They were extensions of our own family, and they had given their lives providing us with the blanket of Freedom, ensuring my right to sit here and do what I was doing. I thought about those two young men…and the millions that had come before them…what they all had sacrificed. It was at this tear-filled juncture, staring at my computer screen, that I decided to build this rifle as a tribute to these two honorable young men. I wasn’t sure what it would look like or how I would do it, I just knew, in that moment, that I had to do it.
In doing my research, I found Unique AR’s and their custom handguard program. I first ordered a custom handguard for the rifle that my son wanted to build. Then I started drawing out the idea I had for my custom handguard. Though I wasn’t sure it could be made how I envisioned it, I e-mailed my crude drawings to Unique AR’s. The head designer, Rich Robinson, soon sent back an email with a virtual sample attached and I was stunned and amazed. After numerous e-mails back and forth and several design changes, my handguard was done and on its way to me. When I received it and saw the attention that was paid to the design details and the intricate machining that was put into it, I was blown away! As the build progressed, the handguard inspired me to make some design changes to the rest of the rifle that would not only pay tribute to those two young men, but also to honor all of our country’s veterans as well. After all, it seemed fitting since our oldest son, John, had served in the Marine Corps and completed two tours of duty during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Our family is truly blessed, every day, to still have him as part of our family.
This rifle is meant to Honor, Commemorate and Pay Tribute to all of the men and women of our Armed Forces, past, present and future…THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SACRAFICE AND YOUR SERVICE!
Christopher J Lapka
The Lapka family lives across the street from us. Christopher grew up with our son Cory and after my fiancé and I blended our families, Chris and our three teenage boys spent the summers playing and sometimes making up their own board games. Christopher graduated High School in the spring of 2000 and in the fall began attending classes at Arizona State University. He was on a full ride scholarship to the Engineering Department when the world changed on September 11, 2001.
Soon after, he informed his family that he saw it as his “Duty to his Country” to enlist in our Nation’s Armed Forces, and he chose the Marine Corps. In the fall of 2004, his unit was deployed to Iraq. Just two weeks into his deployment, the vehicle he was riding in struck a roadside IED, improvised explosive device. Christopher, along with seven other Marines, lost their lives. He was 22.
Christian Michael Pike
I first met Christian when my wife and I got married in 1999. He had been friends with her two boys since childhood and as we blended our families together, Christian was part of the package.
Christian also graduated High School in 2000 with our oldest son John, who had already enlisted in the Marine Corps and had completed boot camp before their High School graduation. Our second oldest son, Jared, graduated a year later and with John off in the Corps, Chris and Jared spent the whole summer of 2001 doing odd jobs, playing video games and chasing girls. Then came 9/11…
Christian’s family had a long line of military service. Christian’s dad had been killed in a car accident while his mom was serving in the Army in Germany, so it didn’t take him long after that fateful day to find himself in a Naval Recruiter’s office. As it turned out, it became a career decision. Christian followed in his mother’s footsteps and chose a very specialized job in the Navy; Cryptologic Technician. In simple terms, he was a communications expert. Christian was driven and in September of 2010, a scant 9 years after beginning his Naval career, I proudly watched the ceremony along with Chris’s mom and Jared as Christian was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Ten months later he reported to a west-coast based Naval Special Warfare Unit.
He trained and worked closely with the Navy Seal Teams based on the west coast. In the fall of 2012, he was deployed with one of the Seal Teams to Afghanistan. In March while conducting stability operations in the Maiwand District, Christian, while tracking the insurgents through their electronic communications, found himself on a rooftop to get a better fix on the enemy positions. He was mortally wounded and air evacuated to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. He died two days later with his mom, sister and Jared by his side.
He was 31.
Thank you to the entire Unique AR’s team!
A special thank you goes out to Tim at ACOATING for the great “Battle Worn” Cerakote finish.
I have been blessed to have both of these companies part of this project!