Hometown hospitality was shown in a big way to the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) 91st Anniversary Convoy of Route 66 on Sunday evening from residents of northeast Oklahoma.
COMMERCE/MIAMI – They rolled into town to a big welcome of standing salutes, waves, applause and red, white and blue signs and flags flying in appreciation and honor. Hometown hospitality was shown in a big way to the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) 91st Anniversary Convoy of Route 66 on Sunday evening from residents of northeast Oklahoma.
“Oh, it's just been an incredible convoy,” Route 66 Convoy Commander Lt. Dan McCluskey said. That's our whole mission of the MVPA – we preserve them, but we also have history in motion.”
The MVPA Convoy is caravanning across the original 1926 Route 66 with as many as 50 to 80 privately owned vintage historic military vehicles that launched from Chicago, Illinois on Sept. 16 making their way to Santa Monica, California by Oct. 24. Some drivers make the entire journey while others join the convoy for specific sections of the trip.
The convoy's journey has been chronicled on the MVPA's Facebook page as they travel, and on their website at www.mvpa.org. McCluskey and the convoy members were thrilled with the convoy's reception in Oklahoma.
“We had two girls who responded and said it was just the most incredible thing they had ever seen,” McCluskey said. “We're traveling across the United States, and we're going to take 29 days to get to Santa Monica, and this is how it is the whole way!”
McCluskey is on his fourth MVPA Convoy with his wife by his side.The MVPA's cross country historic tours in past years include retracing the US Army route of 1919, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Alaska Highway, and retracing the US Army route of 1920.
A parade of military Jeeps, medic trucks, supply and transport trucks, armored cars and other historic vehicles from several eras of military duty were on display as the convoy made its way down old Route 66 into Miami. Despite being somewhat behind schedule, the crowds gathered waited out the convoy's arrival to cheer them on.
Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau Tourism Coordinator Sherry Spillers organized efforts to greet the drivers and their families to the area with a warm reception on their seventh day of travel.
From a grand procession lined with residents both young and old, some veterans themselves, the convoy traveled here most recently from a three-day stop in Branson through Galena, and Baxter Springs, Kansas into Oklahoma through Commerce before stopping in Miami for the night.
The Commerce Police and Fire Departments with the help of the Ottawa County Sheriffs Office, Quapaw Police Department and Miami Police Department escorted and made way for the convoy along their path of travel by directing traffic to their destination for the night. The Miami Walmart cleared the northeast corner of their parking lot to give the convoy a resting place for the evening.
“There was a great turnout along the route,” Commerce Chief of Police Ray Horn said. “It was a pleasure and honor to do this for our Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, all the armed forces. The big turnout at Walmart was great.”
The Grove Chapter of Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CMVA) set up a chow line in the parking lot and fed the convoy's tired travelers dinner as they arrived.
The MVPA drivers visited with people in the large crowd who came out to see the convoy, taking photos with many and sharing information about their particular vehicles. Veterans shared stories about their experiences and military service involving the various vehicles on display.
The MVPA drivers were as varied as their vehicles coming from different military eras and backgrounds. Australian Army Veteran Michael O'Sullivan shook hands with children and adults admiring his truck.
“The fact that the machinery is still usable, that's what we like,” O'Sullivan said. “They were built to last.”
O'Sullivan was moved by the large group gathered in Miami.
“Oh! It's been unbelievable. The crowds have come out, and they've been waiting for up to two hours in some stops, and it's incredible really,” he said. “ I mean it's just amazing that they come out and wave the flags, it's very patriotic. It brings a tear to our eyes sometimes, it really does.”
“Today we had so many people out – it's been one of our best showings,” McCluskey said during a briefing of the drivers after they arrived and got settled in. “It was fantastic! We always thank our host cities that provide food, an escort and a place to stay to the convoy. I'd like to thank you all for supporting us here in Miami, Oklahoma.”
The drivers gave a rousing cheer for all those who volunteered and donated locally to the convoy, and McCluskey presented Hart with a special commemorative license plate.
Many of the MVPA Convoy participants stayed in or with their vehicles overnight in the Walmart parking lot before heading on at 7 a.m. Monday morning to their next scheduled destination in Claremore.
The American Legion Post No. 147 bid the convoy a fond farewell on the next leg of their journey by lining Main Street in Miami with American flags. The MVPA Convoy was scheduled to stop in Claremore for lunch Monday before settling for the night in Sapulpa.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.