Journey across America: Cross-country military vehicle convoy marks 100 years

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Trucks like these led the convoy as they headed out to their next stop in Wooster. (Sarah Donkin photo)

ALLIANCE, Ohio — It is not common to see an entire line of historic military vehicles in Alliance. Anyone driving down Union Street as the 2019 Military Vehicle Preservation Association’s Lincoln Highway Convoy left Glamorgan Castle Aug. 15 would have seen exactly that.

Historic trip

The convoy is retracing the path taken by the 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy, celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the trip. It started in York, Pennsylvania, Aug. 10, and will travel to San Francisco, California, over the course of 36 days, arriving at the final destination Sept. 14. It makes stops in many towns along the way for breakfasts, lunches and overnight stays.

This is the organization’s fifth convoy. A 2009 convoy followed the same route to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 1919 convoy.

“We honor our veterans and our soldiers every time along here,” said Terry Shelswell, of Holly, Michigan, who is commanding the convoy.

The trip also allows the drivers to educate the public about historical military vehicles.

“They might see them and think, ‘Gee, maybe that’s what my dad drove,’” Shelswell said.

The convoy stopped at Glamorgan Castle for lunch. While the vehicles were parked, Alliance residents and others who drove from further away to see the convoy walked around the vehicles and chatted with the drivers about them. All of the vehicles are privately owned and maintained.

Honoring veterans

According to Lamar Rowland, a convoy member from Samson, Alabama, the group moves at about 35 miles per hour.

Many of the cities the convoy stops in host and feed the travelers. Some of the convoy members stay in motels or campers on the trip. Others bring tents.

In East Palestine, Ohio, Aug. 14, Rowland said “the whole town turned out.”

“Every chance I get, I tell them America is alive and well,” Rowland said. “I’m 80 years old, and this is the neatest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.”

Tom Smith, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam from 1968-1969, came from Mechanicstown, Ohio, to see the convoy in Alliance. He believes many veterans “never got their just dues.”

“I just wanted to be in support for the military,” he said.

About 100 people are traveling with the convoy in 45 vehicles, some of them from New Zealand and Australia.

Some join the convoy for part of the journey and then stop when they reach their destination. Others jump in later on during the trip and drive until the end.

Volunteer support

At Glamorgan Castle, members of Marlboro Volunteers, a military history group, brought lunch and water for the travelers. Some members of the group brought their own historic military vehicles to show off.

“A lot of us like the vehicles; a lot of us like the military,” said Marlboro Volunteer member Pork Givens. “We would like to support other people who do similar things.”

After Alliance, the convoy headed to Wooster until Aug. 17 for a planned maintenance and rest day. According to Givens, members of Marlboro Volunteers planned to follow the convoy to Wooster to help with maintenance and pass out food.

“The passion for OD [Olive Drab] … it gets in your blood and you just can’t seem to get it out,” Givens said.

The MVPA is the largest international historic military vehicle group, with roughly 8,000 members, according to its website. It hosts trail rides and convoys throughout the year for military vehicle owners.

To follow the convoy’s journey across the nation, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MVPAConvoy.

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Reporter Sarah Donkin is a former 4-Her and a Mount Union graduate from Columbiana County, Ohio. She enjoys playing and writing music, cooking, and storytelling in many forms. She can be reached at 800-837-3419 or sarah@farmanddairy.com.

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