A fresher set of wheels: Deployed sergeant’s ride revamped by friends

  • Published
  • By By Airman 1st Class Shane Dunaway
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Wings Over Wayne may be synonymous with the roar of jet engines and the smell of funnel cakes, but for one master sergeant who recently returned from deployment, it was about a group of supportive friends who chose to surprise him upon his return.

Master Sgt. Arvo Kovamees, 4th Logistics Readiness Squadron superintendent of vehicle operations, is now the proud owner of a fully restored lime green 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner convertible after friends sunk money and time into a car which many would have deemed to be unserviceable.

"The car had fallen into a state of disrepair from storage, transportation and weather exposure," Sergeant Kovamees said. "The paint had faded and begun to flake, and rust had overtaken the trunk lid, rear fenders and floorboards. Every time I fixed two items on the car, I would find four more items that needed repair or attention."

Sergeant Kovamees, a self-proclaimed "gear head" by trade, had initially planned to fix the car on his own, but he always seemed to run into new obstacles each attempt.

"It had always been my goal to have the car restored before I retire and to have it next to me in my ceremony since we have almost 'served' together my entire career," Sergeant Kovamees said. "It has been difficult to store the car while on remote, overseas or during deployments, and each time it was left, it just fell a little deeper into disrepair. I had actually begun a long term plan to restore the car just before I left and finished installing the engine and driveline with two coworkers just days before I deployed. It was basically a start on the end goal."

While Sergeant Kovamees was deployed, his wife and friends hatched an elaborate scheme to allow the car to get into Project Arvo's hands.

"About two months before I returned my wife called me one day in a panic," Sergeant Kovamees said. "She had told me we had a housing inspection aided by the wing commander and they had written us up for an oil spot in the driveway under my car and that it was leaking profusely. She sounded so in a panic, I wanted to make it as easy on her as possible since I was away. When she suggested my best friend load it on a trailer and store it at his house in Raleigh, N.C., I agreed immediately."

Members and sponsors of Project Arvo worked feverishly around the clock to have the car ready for Sergeant Kovamees' return.

Why would a group of car enthusiasts give so much time and energy to help a fellow member? Ray Munsch, project manager for Project Arvo, insists the answer is simple.

"We really appreciate what all our troops are doing for us in the theater," he said. "What we want is for all the troops over there to see that we're all behind them over here."

Sergeant Kovamees finally got his first look at the finished product October 14 during a welcome home cookout.

"Overwhelming does not even begin to describe the pride I have in my friends the local community and everyone involved in this project," Sergeant Kovamees said. "Everything on this car is visibly restored with pride and painstaking loving detail. I am sure the whole effect has not still hit me and I will have the feeling over and over again each time I roll this car out of the driveway. I told my wife and friends I need to measure every day of the rest of my life with comparing it to the best weekend of my life."

Thanks in part to the people in his life who care most about him, Sergeant Kovamees' dream to retire alongside his prized automobile is almost a certainty to come true.