Vietnam vet's cross-country ride to benefit brain injury sufferers
CANDIA — With the goal of raising awareness for soldiers with traumatic brain injuries, Vietnam veteran Russ Mowry will travel across America and Canada in his vintage 1959 Elva Courier retracing the exact path he traveled 50 years earlier.
The trip, which will start July 13, will encompass 8,000 miles and and is expected to take two months to get to California and back.
"I thought, here is a chance to do something important," Mowry said.
After Mowry graduated from high school in 1962, his father bought him a Elva Courier, his first car, and a year later Mowry was driving it cross country to California.
"I have been planning on taking that trip again for 10 years, but last year I started to think about how I could give it a higher meaning, so then I decided I would use the trip to save money for veterans," Mowry said.
Mowry will have company on his trip, as his friends and fellow service veterans Dick Kydd of Manchester and Bill Carroll of Maine will join him.
"This trip wouldn't be possible without all the local support I have gotten, I mean I just found out the street engine needs work, and Earl Tucker of Nissan in Manchester, who lives in Raymond, is rebuilding the street engine for free."
Kydd said he was honored when Mowry asked him to go along on the trip.
"It took me an hour to say I would do it."
Kydd said that along with helping veterans, he is looking forward to visiting North Dakota, which is the only state in the country he has yet to visit.
"Dick is the perfect person to go on this trip with, I can't imagine anyone better," Mowry said.
Mowry said he is self-funding the trip to the tune of $8,000, and that all money contributed will go straight to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. Local vendors contributing include Superior Interior and Armor Coatings in Hooksett, and the Campers Inn of Merrimack.
"And we are still looking for more sponsorships," Mowry said.
The genesis for the trip started after Mowry decided he wanted to relive his original cross-country trip 50 years ago when he packed all his Ray Charles albums and kept a diary detailing his experience, a diary he still has.
While Mowry sold his Courier in 1964, he never forgot it, resulting in him tracking down the exact same car and buying it again in 2001, only this time it was in horrible condition.
"Let's just say I have put in quite a bit more money restoring the car than the car is actually worth," Mowry said.
But to Mowry the cost is worth it, as only 500 or so of the cars were originally made in England, and perhaps only 50 still survive in the states. Mowry also has two engines for the car, one for racing and one that is legal to drive on the street.
Now retired after spending 35 years as a corporate pilot flying out of New York City, Mowry says he spends his time with his Elva Courier traveling around New England racing it at tracks with other vintage race care enthusiasts.
"I may be 69 but mentally I am 40," he said.
During the upcoming trip, which will include stops at vintage car shows and the annual motorcycle rally at Sturgis, S.D., Mowry said he will try to raise money everywhere he stops.
"Visually, a lot of veterans with traumatic brain injuries look normal but it is horrific what they are going through, and the country hasn't stepped up to take care of them. So I want to do my little part to help."
Starting off his post high school life as a care-free art student, Mowry said he started to look for a change and found it in a Army brochure detailing helicopters.
"I never thought about being a pilot, but at that moment it became something I wanted to do."
Mowry volunteered for the Army, and subsequently served a 12-month tour of duty flying assault helicopters in Vietnam. Kydd and Carroll also served in the Army, with Carroll also flying in Vietnam.
Mowry is no stranger to media attention, as he endured a catastrophic hydraulic failure while flying a news helicopter 800 feet above Brooklyn and crashing into the roof of a building in 2004, the video of which is available on Youtube.com.
Mowry says that it is very unlikely that he will ever fly again, but that it's not something he dwells on, as his life as a retiree in New Hampshire is very fulfilling.
A week before he leaves on his cross-country journey, Mowry said he is going to have an open house kick-off at his house on July 7 where he will sell space on his car. For a $20 contribution to the Intrepid fund, anyone can sign the car.
"This way you can be on the trip," he said.
The kick-off will take place from noon to 5 p.m. at Mowry's home in Candia, at 387 Brown Road.