The 2019 Transcontinental Motor Convoy spends Saturday night in Stadium Park of Delphos. Dinner for the members is provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3035. As of Delphos, the convoy still has 3/4ths of their trip to go. (DHI Media/Rebecca Violet)
The 2019 Transcontinental Motor Convoy spends Saturday night in Stadium Park of Delphos. Dinner for the members is provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3035. As of Delphos, the convoy still has 3/4ths of their trip to go. (DHI Media/Rebecca Violet)
VAN WERT — Van Wert played host to a convoy of military vehicles early Sunday morning, shortly after the group left Delphos.

“Members of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association are following the route that the military took on the Lincoln Highway in 1919,” said Ed Schutz of American Legion Post 178. “The Lincoln Highway was one of the first highways built specifically for military traffic from one coast to the other and the group is celebrating the 100th anniversary of that journey.”

The Legion provided the group with breakfast Sunday.

“We’ve had a lot of people through here in the past so this is not too unusual. However, it normally trickles in instead of everybody at one time,” Schutz said.

Robert Neely from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, served as a member of the convoy’s advance unit.

“This is my fifth convoy. I was actually on the ‘09 convoy, but I could only get off work for 10 days,” he noted. “I flew into South Bend and joined the convoy there and stayed with the group until we got to Casper, Wyoming, when I had to fly back. I was hooked.”

He noted that each vehicle is privately owned.

“They have to be maintained in prime condition specifically for trips like this,” said Neely. “Because you are doing thousands of miles of driving and the first issue is safety. You want to make sure that the vehicle complies with all the current highway safety rules as well as provides some modicum of comfort.”

Neely said preparation was the key to success.

“It takes approximately two years to plan each convoy. In this case we have somewhere between 400-500 municipalities that we are going through,” he stated. “We notify every single municipality, whether we are stopping there or not.”

He said the group wants each municipality to know approximately when the group will arrive and, “we don’t want to tax their resources.” He said he enjoys the logistical challenges.

He spoke on an event that took place on an earlier convoy when it was in Woodbine, Iowa.

“I was part of the advance party and we moved forward to the next spot,” said Neely. “Little did we know that behind us, a tornado moved through Woodbine. Fortunately it did not affect any of our vehicles or people, but it destroyed a lot of trees on the street where we were parked.”

He said he was notified that the convoy would be delayed. Members of the convoy assisted the people of Woodbine clean up and were delayed by several hours. That meant a delay in routing. Neely noted, “Nebraska troopers found out about it. They took us on the main highway which normally we avoid. They escorted us safely into Nebraska.”

Lamar Rowland, spokesman for the group, is from Alabama.

“This is a convoy from D.C. to San Francisco to honor the vets. We are traveling the Lincoln Highway to mark the anniversary of the transcontinental trip for the Army in 1919,” said Rowland. “We have 43 privately-owned military vehicles.”

Rowland said the group was made up of people from all over. “We have people here from as far away as New Zealand. We actually have six guys from New Zealand. They talk funny but we still let them go with us.”

Rowland said the trip will take about 36 days. “Our top speed is 35 mph. Coming over the mountains in Pennsylvania we went 10 mph.”

Some of the members will spend their nights roughing it.

Rowland said, “I have a five-ton truck that I’ve turned into a camper. I have it pretty comfortable. Some of the guys, traveling in jeeps, will tent camp.”

Rowland said he really enjoyed the experiences. “I’m 80 years old and these convoys are the neatest things I’ve ever done.” He noted that most of the members were veterans, however, “There are some guys in our group that have never served at all. They do it to honor the vets.”

He said that the ages of the vehicles spanned a number of decades. “The oldest is a 1914 Dodge and my truck is a 1991. They range from World War I to Desert Storm.” He added that the group appreciated Van Wert’s hospitality.

He concluded by saying, “The one point I would like to make to all Americans is, ‘America is alive and well.’”