Charlotte Motor Speedway officials last month announced the Welcome Home Our Troops pre-race show for the Coca-Cola 600. Photo by Harold Hinson for Charlotte Motor SpeedwayBefore the drivers start their
engines, they will first thank some veterans.
On Memorial Day weekend, while the nation pauses to honor the
sacrifices of generations of Americans, NASCAR—that most patriotic
of sporting organizations—is hosting what it calls the World’s
Biggest Memorial Day Celebration during Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at
Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Pre-race festivities include a pizza party for up to 10,000
military members and their families, flyovers featuring vintage
military aircraft and an American bald eagle circling the infield
during the national anthem.
Among the numerous promotions leading up to the race was the
opportunity for fans to purchase a $25 ticket for a member of the
military. As much as 10 percent of the crowd at the
140,000-capacity speedway could be military members and their
families, according to
a USA Today story this week.
"These guys have been out there with their lives on the line for
America and for freedom, and what's it to us to provide a great
time to them?" Marcus Smith, Charlotte Motor Speedway president and
general manager, told the paper.
During the busy season of military transfers, adjusting to new
communities and registering children for school, more than 2,000
museums across the nation will open their doors, free of charge, to
service members and their families as a break from the summer
challenges, a Defense Department official said Tuesday.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, all active-duty service
members, National Guardsmen and reservists and their families can
take advantage of this cultural and educational opportunity in all
“It’s an exciting, inspiring, educational and economical
activity for our families to enjoy this summer,” said Navy
Commander Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
Launching its fourth year in a news conference today at the
Smithsonian American Art Museum, the 2013 Blue Star Museums Program
is a collaboration among the Defense Department, Blue Star
Families, the National Endowment for the Arts and the museums to
give service members and their families a way to spend time
together in their local museums.
“After long deployments, rigorous training schedules and very
long hours, our time with our families is very limited and
extremely precious to us,” Hull-Ryde said. “We are so grateful [to
have] these programs. This program is an investment in our
A record number of museums are participating this year. The
program began in 2010 with free access to about 600 museums, while
this year’s 2,000 is a figure that’s still growing, Blue Star
Families and NEA officials said.
“This program is helping us make memories—memories for our
families,” Hull-Ryde said. “But it’s more than that. It is making a
difference not only in the force of today, but in the force of the
An Air Force pararescueman prepares to rappel down from a HH-60G Pave Hawk earlier this month over the Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti. The 449th Air Expeditionary Group regularly conducts training in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Byers
Nature’s fury shifted its focus from Texas, where 16 tornadoes
killed at least six and injured dozens May 16, to Moore, Oklahoma,
The Moore tornado, preliminarily classified as an F4, hit the
city Monday at 4:01 p.m. EDT. Initial reports were that 51 were
dead and many more injured with and those numbers expected to
increase. Tuesday morning brought some better news, though. The
death toll was lowered to 24, including nine children, though it
could rise as the clean up continues.
For residents of Moore, the storm hit just 17 days after the
14th anniversary of an even more powerful tornado, an F5 that
killed 26 and injured 295.
When tragedies like these hit, confusion can reign. Family
members may be OK, but not reachable because phone lines are down
or over burdened. Understandably, children who experience a storm –
whether first-hand or via news reports – can be shaken and
To help with these situations and more, DOD Live has compiled a
list of resources, including a link to the Red Cross Database where
individuals who can’t reach loved ones can list themselves as “safe
and well” or family members can list names of those family members
Nearly 250 members of the Oklahoma National Guard were assisting
Tuesday with victim search and security in Moore, Oklahoma, where a
monster tornado left at least 51 dead, including 20 children,
The twister hit Monday afternoon when children were still in two
elementary schools in the Oklahoma City suburb.
The tornado, packing winds of up to 200 mph, tore off the roof
of Plaza Towers Elementary School and pulverized walls. Volunteers
joined first responders who helped rescue children and staff from
the devastation, the Associated Press reported.
Governor Mary Fallin activated the airmen and soldiers on
Monday. Among those responding was the 146th Air Support Operations
Squadron from nearby Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in
Second Lieutenant Gabriel Bird said the unit members carried
thermal imaging gear to help locate those buried in rubble.
“Hopefully, we’ll find survivors,” Bird said.
Members also carried multi-band radios to communicate with
ground and aircraft crews and basic medical supplies, Bird
“We’re a pretty new unit so we haven’t supported any state
emergencies,” Bird said, but noted that many members are veterans
who themselves have supported other disaster-recovery
Sailors from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis march through the streets of Bremerton, Washington, during Saturday’s Armed Forces Day Parade. Stennis recently returned from an eight-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and continued theater security cooperation efforts. Navy photo by Seaman Jose L. Hernandez
Joseph "Joey" C. Smith, a member of the Marine Corps team, is competing in shooting and swimming events during the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Army photo by David VergunIn 2005, former Marine and
now-retired Army Sergeant Joseph “Joey” C. Smith lay in a Veterans
Affairs hospital, wracked with pain. He watched other wounded
veterans around him suffering, many despondent and without
He was at the lowest point in his life.
A year earlier, he had been at a remote forward operating base
in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment when he was injured. He was
working alongside Afghan soldiers around some storage containers.
He said two of the Afghans climbed onto the roof of one of the
containers and intentionally pushed another container on top of
For the next four years, he transferred among multiple hospitals
where he underwent three surgeries on his spinal cord, as well as
one on his leg. Doctors told him he was lucky to be alive.
He also lost the use of his voice for those four years, but
using pen and paper, he wrote just a few words that he said helped
to inspire other wounded warriors in that hospital as well as
The Marine Corps later adopted what he wrote as their own “Creed
of the Wounded Warrior,” and the words quickly spread, inspiring
“Though I am wounded, I will always be a warrior. I will never
give up, nor quit in the face of adversity. I will do my best in
all that I do and achieve. I will not allow my injuries to limit
me, and most of all, I will never forget my fallen comrades or
leave a fellow injured warrior behind,” reads the creed.
That such a simple message as this inspired so many is amazing,
Following his hospitalization, Smith followed his creed to “do
my best in all that I do and achieve” by entering the 2010 Warrior
Games, the first year of that competition. He competed in shooting,
swimming, cycling and archery. At the games, the athletes are all
wounded, ill or injured veterans and service members.
Smith has returned every year since and this week he’s competing
in the shooting and swimming events at the Olympic Training Center
and U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
He said the intense interservice and interpersonal rivalries
really motivate the athletes, but “at the end of the day, it’s one
team, one fight,” meaning that they are all friends who are helping
each other through the healing process.
Things have been looking up for Smith, who said he plans to
return to the games in the future.
In 2010, he and his wife, Debbi, received a special gift. Homes
for Our Heroes, a nonprofit organization, donated a
wheelchair-accessible home for them in Thomasville, N.C. He said
words can’t describe how much that meant to them.
During the competitions this week, some 400 members of the media
from around the world are covering the games, outnumbering the
athletes nearly 2 to 1.
Smith said he thinks that is “awesome” and that he hopes the
media will get the word out to the world about what it means to be
a wounded warrior and how they are all trying hard to rebuild their
lives, assisting one another, despite the suffering they have
Air Force General Philip BreedloveNavy Admiral James StavridisNATO’s focus will remain squarely on Afghanistan
as Air Force General Philip Breedlove succeeds Navy Admiral James
Stavridis as the alliance’s supreme allied commander, NATO
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday.
On a cool, windy day in Mons, Belgium, Rasmussen passed the
colors of Supreme Allied Command Operations from Stavridis to
Breedlove. Rain threatened, but never materialized.
NATO is the heart and soul of the 50-nation coalition in
Afghanistan, the secretary general said, and the alliance has been
involved since the formation of the International Security
“On your watch,” he said to Breedlove, “Afghan forces will be
taking full responsibility for the security of their own country,
and ISAF will complete its combat mission–as planned–at the end of
2014. You will help shape a new and NATO-led mission to train,
assist and advise Afghan forces after 2014.”
But the alliance is more than the war in Afghanistan, Rasmussen
noted. NATO forces also serve off the Horn of Africa to deter
piracy, patrol the Mediterranean Sea, serve in Kosovo and patrol
the Baltic Sea. NATO forces deployed to Turkey are protecting that
ally from Syrian missiles, he said.
These are demanding operational tasks, the secretary general
said, but Breedlove also must complete the reform of NATO’s command
structure to make it “leaner, more effective and more affordable.”
Rasmussen expressed confidence in Breedlove’s ability to meet the
The secretary general then turned to Stavridis, the first
admiral to hold the position. Rasmussen said the Stavridis “has
navigated these uncharted waters with great skill.”
Rasmussen said the secret of the admiral’s success lies with his
philosophy that the security of the future should be built by
bridges, rather than walls. In Afghanistan, Stavridis built bridges
among NATO allies, coalition partners and the Afghan government, he
“Your bridge-building skills were also evident in 2011 when NATO
responded to a United Nations call and deployed a force in record
time to protect the people of Libya,” Rasmussen said. “You have
also stayed focused on the strategic horizon and NATO and [Supreme
Headquarters Allied Powers Europe] have benefited from your
During his time at the headquarters, Stavridis established a
comprehensive crisis management center and an alliance special
operations headquarters. And he has reached out, Rasmussen
“You have blogged and you have tweeted to help explain the value
of our alliance and to sustain political and public support for
what we do,” the secretary general said to the admiral.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Rasmussen presented Stavridis
with the NATO Meritorious Service Medal. The admiral will retire
from the Navy and become the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts
University in Medford, Massachusetts.
Our Spring 2013 issue highlights stories you might not know
about the military. We'll debunk common military myths and explore
little-known tales of heroism, while finding the stories behind
some of the military's most prominent traditions.
The mission of ON★PATROL is to honor those who serve and those
who serve them. It is our hope that through ON★PATROL we can share
as many stories as possible through the magazine, USOonPatrol.org,
and our community of guest columnists and fellow organizations. If
you have a story to share with us, please email us at EditorOnPatrol@uso.org.