America Supports You: NASCAR Honors 'Why We Serve' Troops at Talladega
By Petty Officer 1st Class Amy Kirk, Special to American Forces Press Service
TALLADEGA, Ala., April 30, 2007 - A soldier, a sailor, an airman and a Marine received expressions of thanks over and over again from members of the crowd at Talladega Superspeedway during the Aaron's 499 yesterday.
Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Olson, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Virginia Mayo, Air Force Tech Sgt. Robert Jubie and Marine Sgt. Noah Tretter attended the race as part of the Defense Department's "Why We Serve" program. Under the auspices of the program, troops travel on a speaker's circuit across the country telling their personal experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan.
All four servicemembers were nominated by their respective commands to be a part of the "Why We Serve" program and share their own personal stories with the country.
For all the time they have given overseas and for sharing their stories, NASCAR decided to give a little back to this group, starting with a few laps around the Superspeedway in the pace car, then moving on to a special introduction to the drivers and the race's Grand Marshal, comedian Jeff Foxworthy.
"This was my first NASCAR event," Mayo said. "The people have been so great. NASCAR fans seem to be the heartbeat of America, and I think I am quickly going to become a part of the NASCAR nation."
NASCAR has been a member of the America Supports You program since the beginning of the program. America Supports You recognizes the support of American individuals, groups and organizations for military men and women, and it communicates that support to troops at home and abroad.
NASCAR has been working to help raise awareness about the organizations' efforts by including signs at tracks, airing public service announcements on Nextel Vision and placing decals on race cars.
Jubie said the thanks he received from NASCAR and the race fans meant a lot to him.
"It really makes me feel appreciated," Jubie said. "I wish more people would be this way."
Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Olson was very humble about his experience with the NASCAR fans.
"It's a little awkward," he said. "I don't really consider myself a hero. There are way better people they could take photos with. I was just over there doing my job."
Olson added that the Why We Serve program allows the servicemembers to tell a part of the story that doesn't make it into news reports.
"I like being able to talk about the good stuff," said Olson. "In my unit, we were a tight knit group. Morale was good, and we supported each other. We got care packages from home and if we saw someone didn't, we shared. You don't see that side of it."
Trotter said that receiving support from Americans is very important to the troops.
"I know when I put the uniform on that people are going to stop me. I stop, shake hands, listen to their stories and smile," Trotter said. "We couldn't do what we do without the support of the people."
(Petty Officer 1st Class Amy Kirk is assigned to Navy Recruiting District Atlanta.)