By Rana Jones
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
KEMMERER — Cpt. Scott Montefusco is driving down the road in a restored 1952 Korean War Willys Jeep, with a picture of Horatio Nelson Jackson — the first person to travel across the United States in an automobile — taped to the dashboard. He is wearing a jet-helmet and throwing out the occasional “Woohoo!”
He told the Gazette that he refuses to put the windshield up, no matter what the weather throws his way. He compares the experience to a scene in “Forrest Gump” where Lt. Dan braves the storm from the mast of the boat, screaming his defiance to defeat.
Montefusco is a retired law enforcement officer and Marine Corps captain who is driving his Jeep “Little Glory” across the country, from San Francisco to New York, to raise money for veterans.
He hopes to auction the Jeep when he reaches New York City and donate funds to the nonprofit organization Tunnel to Towers (T2T).
“T2T looks after Gold Star and fallen first responder families with young children. The goal is that families of any military member or first responder lost in the line of duty will be provided with mortgage-free homes,” he said.
T2T is also committed to eradicating veteran homelessness.
Montefusco said Jackson, who was an American automobile pioneer and served as a surgeon in WWI, is his hero.
“I’m retracing the route of Horatio Nelson Jackson, who was the first person to ever drive a car across America. He did the trip in 1903, the same dates I’m doing it, but he did it in a two-cylinder, 18-horsepower, Winston autocar.”
Montefusco is passionate about the history of his hero.
“He’s got guts,” he said. “His courage under fire in WW1, his volunteering to serve in time of war, his adventurous and positive can-do attitude for life is inspiring.”
History is one of the side shoots of the trip, he said.
“I’m trying to inspire young people to take an interest in American history,” he said.” It is so fascinating.”
Kemmerer was a destination spot for Montefusco, who toured the town and made a video in front of the historic JC Penney building. He met with local law enforcement, watched youth baseball games and even met up with a fellow Jeep owner, a local who owns a 1953 civilian CJ-3B.
Montefusco’s love of history was evident as he said Jackson probably visited the JC Penney Mother Store when he drove through town in 1903.
After watching Ken Burns’ documentary “Horatio’s Drive” in 2003, Montefusco decided he was going to replicate his idol’s trip and call it the Great American Road Trip (GART). He has a website — https://gartforvets.org — where he shows the route he is driving and updates with videos and pictures.
Montefusco said he feels the presence of someone watching over him.
“I stopped at Register Rock (Idaho) and lost my phone,” he said. “I was upset and had to tell my audience that I didn’t have videos to share. But then miraculously I recovered the phone. It was a million to one, but I got it. Someone is watching over me.”
He is counting on volunteers to drive his RV on certain legs of the trip. At the time of the interview with the Gazette, he did not have a driver out of Kemmerer.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I’m sure I can round up a veteran or a patriot to jump in for the day.”
After retiring from the FBI in Salt Lake City, Montefusco restored his Jeep and spent a year on the road to promote his road trip for veterans and looking for sponsors. During this time, he realized at least half of the veterans he spoke to did not know about Tunnel to Towers.
He contacted the organization, informing them of his plan to get the word out to the fire and police departments as well as military personnel that he was doing a road trip to raise awareness.
“Some of our younger generation veterans have done over three tours,” he said. “I want to raise awareness and funds to honor veterans. I have met some really neat people, and this has been an amazing experience.”