In the Pits
Charlotte race salutes Armed Forces
The Charlotte Motor Speedway scheduled a spectacular tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces in conjunction with the Coca-Cola 600 over the Memorial Day Weekend. The Speedway donated 3,000 seats to soldiers from Fort Bragg, NC, and more than 600 soldiers from Fort Bragg were invited to participate in the Coca-Cola 600 pre-race featuring an exciting demonstration involving UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and 105 mm Howitzer guns.
Scheduled pre-race highlights:
• Recognition of Medal of Honor recipients Robert Maxwell (World War II), Ronald Rosser (Korea) and Charles Hagemeister (Vietnam).
• A tribute to honor the families of fallen soldiers from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC, including Capt. Thomas “Lag” Gramith and Capt. Mark “Pit Bull” McDowell.
• Unfurling of the American flag by more than 100 family members of Fort Bragg soldiers.
• Singing of the national anthem by Charlotte native Cpl. John Hyland, who lost his leg in Iraq during a reconnaissance mission on Sept. 11, 2007. Hyland received the Purple Heart for his heroism and service. A life-long NASCAR fan, Hyland worked as a guest services employee at Charlotte Motor Speedway and is a trained opera singer who has performed at the Opera Festival di Roma in Italy.
• Final flyover before the start of the race by four F-15 Eagles flown by pilots from the 333rd Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
Additional pre-race festivities for the Coca-Cola 600 were to include performances by the U.S. Army drill team and the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus; the arrival of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team; a 21-gun salute by soldiers from Fort Bragg; a bagpipe performance of “Amazing Grace” by the Charlotte Fire Department Pipe Band; and “Taps” played by a Fort Bragg bugler.
The pre-race show was set to begin with a parade of military vehicles, followed by a series of flyovers by a P-51 Mustang owned by Roush Fenway Racing founder and co-owner Jack Roush, a replica of the “Memphis Belle” B-17 bomber, a C-47 transport plane, an A1-H Skyraider and a T-28 Trojan.
Also during the stirring pre-race festivities, retired U.S. Army Col. Walter Marm was to be honored with the Stonewall Jackson Award. Presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway annually since 1992, the award recognizes standards of patriotism through personal support of the military and personal service to sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty.