NASCAR and Coca-Cola will team up to salute America’s military this weekend as part of America’s Fourth of July celebrations.
“For NASCAR as an industry, it’s a privilege to honor the military men and women who protect our country’s freedom,” Jill Gregory, NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said according to a NASCAR news release.
“As we culminate NASCAR Salutes in Chicago and Daytona Beach, we remain humbled by the opportunity to recognize our military community and thank service members for the sacrifices made on our behalf.”
At Chicagoland Speedway, Jeffrey Earnhardt’s No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Racing Toyota Supra will sport a red, white and blue Comcast NBCUniversal “Salute to Service” theme.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the NASCAR Troops to the Track program hosted by Coca-Cola, which give service members a VIP race day experience.
Further, Camping World, the parent company of NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series entitlement partner and sponsor of the Chicagoland Speedway race weekend, has given out more than 2,500 tickets to the military community.
As part of the “NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola” patriotism-themed weekend at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR drivers will have the names of military units and installations on their car windshields for Friday’s Circle K Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola.
Daytona will also honor distinguished veterans, including two Medal of Honor recipients — Retired Army Command Sergeant Major Gary Littrell who won his medal in Vietnam and Army Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer II who won his in Afghanistan.
Shurer was honored for his actions during a 2008 battle in Afghanistan, Army Times reported.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Dillon Behr recalled the actions of Shurer, the team’s senior medical sergeant.
“I said, ‘Hey, I don’t know that I’ve been the best person in the world, and I don’t know that I have any reason to stay alive, but if there is a reason for me, make it so,’ ” Behr said. “And Ron slapped me across the face and said, ‘Wake up! You’re not going to die today.’ “
“Ron’s presence in that time and being able to keep calm and cool and collected while administering to my injuries is the only reason that I’m alive today,” Behr said.
“Without Ron Shurer at my side, I would have died that day. No question,” Dillon Behr said. Shurer will receive the Medal of Honor at the White House today. https://t.co/pDouo6wfXg
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) October 1, 2018
In an interview years later, Littrell spoke about the incident in Vietnam for which he earned his medal when he was asked about his faith, according to an interview with the Veterans History Project.
Littrell was honored last year as well.
Learn more about the Medal of Honor servicemembers featured in tonight’s pre-race ceremonies. #NASCARSalutes
— #NASCARSalutes (@NASCAR) July 7, 2018
“On the fourth night, I pretty much had come to the conclusion that I was dead. It was over. A very quiet peaceful tranquil feeling come over. My God and I have our own thing going. We understand each other. And that night I knew that I would probably never see the sun shine.
“It was a quiet peaceful tranquil feeling. Thank God He didn’t take me. He left me here for a reason. I’m not sure I found that reason yet. But there’s a reason I’m here,” he said.
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Hal Kushner of Daytona Beach, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, will drive the Honorary Pace Truck for the 61st annual Coke Zero Sugar 400 on Saturday.
Kushner was captured in 1967 and was not released until 1973, surviving an ordeal that saw many of those he was imprisoned with die.
In August of 1967, Hal Kushner deployed to Vietnam as an Army Flight Surgeon. Months later, during a dark and rainy evening, he was aboard a helicopter that crashed into the side of a mountain. On Dec. 2, he was captured and held as a POW for 5 1/2 years https://t.co/C7k6rtIRfY pic.twitter.com/RjDVYq2QjC
— Vietnam Vet Memorial (@VVMF) December 2, 2018
“I just feel so lucky that I was born an American,” he said in recent remarks to students at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science, according to a news release.
“I love my country so much and I’m just proud and honored that I could serve it under the most difficult and harrowing circumstances and I could return with even more love for my exceptional America.”
Prior to Saturday’s race at Daytona, a flyover will be conducted by two F-22s from Tyndall Air Force Base and over 100 active duty service members will help display a football-field sized American flag for the singing of the national anthem, the Daytona Speedway said in a news release.
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