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Local

Cross-country convoy cruises through county

An 80-vehicle historic military convoy drives through downtown DeKalb Saturday afternoon. The caravan was a reenactment of the original 1919 U.S. Army's transcontinental motor convoy route along Lincoln Highway. (Carrie Frillman - cfrillman@daily-chronicle.com)
An 80-vehicle historic military convoy drives through downtown DeKalb Saturday afternoon. The caravan was a reenactment of the original 1919 U.S. Army's transcontinental motor convoy route along Lincoln Highway. (Carrie Frillman - cfrillman@daily-chronicle.com)

DeKALB — The roar of the engines echoed down Lincoln Highway around 3:45 p.m. on Saturday – and there weren't even any vehicles in sight yet.

Many of the hundreds of spectators lining the sidewalks of downtown DeKalb stood to peer down the street and catch their first glimpse of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association’s 90th Anniversary Convoy across the U.S.

Those driving and riding in the 80 historic cars, trucks and motorcycles waved as they made their way through the town, greeted by cheers from the crowd. The convoy was a reenactment of the original 1919 U.S. Army's transcontinental motor convoy route along Lincoln Highway.

The convoy also came through DeKalb 90 years ago, with those driving stopping and spending the night in DeKalb. This time, the convoy stopped in Rochelle.

The group — braving a few days of inclement weather — began their cross-country cruise Monday in Washington, D.C., at mile marker one, said Lisa Moeller, who was at the head of the line Sunday riding a military Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Moeller is a member of the Northern Illinois chapter of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, and joined the caravan on Friday, she said.

"These vehicles really are a symbol to honor and thank our veterans of all wars," Moeller said. "As we look at the flags form all the difference branches, it's important to remember the reason we have the freedoms that we do today. It's because of those serving, past and present."

For Annetta Lusiak, 92, seeing the convoy pass through Saturday was nostalgic. She clutched in her hands black and white pictures of her days spent as a member of the Women's Army Corps during World War II.

The Sycamore resident was in convoys during the war, she said. It was also in the 1940s that she met her husband — she drove prisoner of war trucks and he was a "guard at the gate."

"He hooked me right away," she said, beaming.

Her daughter, Kathie Westlund, sat beside her, listening to Lusiak recount her wartime stories. Traffic on the Pennsylvania turnpike would be at a standstill to make way for the WW II convoys, she remembered.

The two agreed it was important to welcome the MVPA's caravan on Saturday.

"I think the American spirit is very strong these days," Westlund said. "It needs to be. There's a great resurgence of patriotism and I'm happy to see it."

The weather couldn't have been better Saturday afternoon for the group's arrival, said Frank Beierlotzer, who is a member of several local veterans organizations.

He was in constant contact with those in the convoy — he told members of the DeKalb Veterans of Foreign Wars when to stand at attention with military flags to welcome the vehicles.

"This park represents those that serve our country, peace time and war time," Beierlotzer said of the memorial park located at the intersection of First Street and Lincoln Highway. "What better way to honor our veterans but to have the convoy come through here."

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