The mere appearance of Randy Parent’s M38 A-1 Jeep stirs one’s sense of patriotism and tickles one’s historical fancy.
The sleek yet rugged Army green exterior and white stars on the front panels and hood glisten in the sun. It looks fresh off the assembly line, although this vintage vehicle is more likely to be found in a military museum or on a movie set.
“It’s a chance to show off our equipment,” said Parent, whose M38 A-1 was used in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. “We don’t want people to forget what it looked like. It’s ancient technology.”
The equipment is part of what makes the MVPA Bankhead Highway ’15 Convoy special. MVPA, after all, stands for Military Vehicle Preservation Association.
Some across America, particularly in the southern states, will have a chance marvel at the sight of 86 teams driving a collection of MVs coast to coast, covering the 3,300-mile Bankhead trek from Washington, D.C. to San Diego at a maximum speed of 35 mph over 29 days from Sept. 19-Oct. 17.
U-Haul International, Inc., recognized nationally as a top veteran-friendly employer and supporter of veteran organizations, is sponsoring the MVPA BH ’15 Convoy.
In addition to covering the cost of U-Haul truck and trailer rentals for many MV teams getting their jeeps to and from the convoy, several U-Haul marketing company offices near the Bankhead route will provide welcoming parties and meals as the convoy makes stops along the way. U-Haul also is assisting with media coverage of the convoy.
“Every time we see a U-Haul, we say, ‘Hey guys, they’re taking care of us,’” Parent said. “This just means so much to the people that need you.”
Parent, 65, his wife, Traci, and the rest of his MV group – dubbed Team Golden Gate for its Bay-area roots – love the old military equipment and cherish the chance to spend time with veterans on the road while seeing the country.
But that’s not why they’re part of the convoy.
Parent was diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer during a routine colonoscopy in June 2014 and has been in remission since concluding chemotherapy in January. He is doing this for different reasons.
“Some people want to run their MVs, and to others, this represents Americas’ longest military parade,” Parent said. “To me, it’s an opportunity to thank the World War II veterans, America’s Greatest Generation, who are all in their 90s now.”
The Parents are the official Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive! liaisons of the convoy. Another U-Haul-sponsored veteran association, the Spirit of ’45 has endorsed the MVPA BH ’15 Convoy and strives to preserve the legacy of America’s Greatest Generation. The Spirit of ’45 is celebrating 70 years since the end of World War II, just as U-Haul is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
“The most important aspect is we’re retracing the Bankhead, and the Bankhead was just as significant as the Lincoln Highway,” Parent said.
The highway will take the MVPA BH ’15 Convoy through Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona en route to California.
Parent, a crew chief door gunner on the helicopter “Raider 28” (which had Yosemite Sam painted on the front) during the Vietnam War, is joined on Team Golden Gate by Doug Kerr, Skip Scott, Jim Losi and Tony Lindsey. Scott is the senior member of the team, an 82-year-old former Air Force pilot. Lindsey is a Navy veteran.
The Parents are already on their way to Washington, D.C., traveling by RV while towing a trailer that carries the M38 A-1. Traci, who authored two books on the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, is by her husband’s side.
“We’re going through 421 towns and cities (on the convoy),” Parent said. “What an opportunity to thank these guys, one veteran to another.
“And in my cancer support group, they think this is really cool. They told me, really, this is a march for life. So yeah, it can be that, too.”
Additional photo credits: Team Golden Gate (featured image; L-R: Jim Losi, Tony Lindsey, Skip Scott, Doug Kerr, Randy Parent and Traci Parent) and M38 A-1 Jeep (thumbnail image) by Randy Parent.