Car tours the country on road trip for the troops

Dane Huffman (right) signs the Wounded Warriors Family Support Mustang while Lieutenant General John Sylvester (left) watches Tuesday at the Joe Machens Ford parking lot.

Dane Huffman (right) signs the Wounded Warriors Family Support Mustang while Lieutenant General John Sylvester (left) watches Tuesday at the Joe Machens Ford parking lot. Emma Kessinger

Tuesday’s bright afternoon sunlight didn’t prevent a small group of veterans and their supporters from congregating on the Capital City Ford Lincoln parking lot to welcome the “High Five Tour Across America.”

The tour — which showcases a 2014 Shelby Mustang GT-500 — is an opportunity for Americans to raise funds for the not-for-profit organization, Wounded Warriors Family Support. During the four month tour, the car will travel more than 26,000 miles, crisscrossing the United States and visiting more than 60 cities.

On Tuesday John Sylvester, a former lieutenant general in the U.S. Army with 37 years of military service, drove the vehicle to Jefferson City. Sylvester, a Virginian, joined the tour in Kansas City and plans to drive the car to Cincinnati.

At the end of its trip, the car will be auctioned off with hopes of raising $1 million to build two more homes for veterans who were disabled in the Iraq and Afghan wars. So far, the program has contributed to the construction of 11 other homes, including one for Jefferson City native, Tyler Huffman.

Throughout its journey, thousands of people will sign their names and ink notes of appreciation on the car to America’s wounded veterans. By the end, the entire car will be coated in silver paint, Sylvester said.

The Wounded Warrior organization was first conceived in Germany, when people realized injured soldiers needed more help than hospital staff could provide. Supporters started to provide clothing, televisions and even tobacco to the men.

“We try to help soldiers regain a bit of their dignity,” Sylvester explained, noting hospital gowns can be a bit drafty.

Over time, it expanded to aid the families of the wounded servicemen who wanted to be closer to their loved ones in Germany, he noted.

“It was a grassroots campaign,” he said.

Today the organization helps raise funds to provide military families with vacation retreats, respite care, home construction and job opportunities. Sylvester estimated the High Five Tour has gathered $100,000 towards its goal.

J.J. Romines, the new car sales manager at Machens, said he was pleased to have the tour on his lot. He planned to sign the car with a note of appreciation from his family, he said, noting his father was a Vietnam veteran with four Purple Hearts.

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