Airmen, Soldiers experience NASCAR pre-race events at RIR

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen experience the Toyota Owners 400 race April 26, 2014, at Richmond International Raceway. Approximately 65 service members participated in the different pre-race events which included interacting with the public at the mobile recruiting station, meeting Dale Earnhardt Jr. during a private ceremony, catching a flag dropped by a skydiver, and presenting a giant flag during the singing of “God Bless America” and the playing of the national anthem at the pre-race ceremony. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Meghan Skrepenski, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen experience the Toyota Owners 400 race April 26, 2014, at Richmond International Raceway. Approximately 65 service members participated in the different pre-race events which included interacting with the public at the mobile recruiting station, meeting Dale Earnhardt Jr. during a private ceremony, catching a flag dropped by a skydiver, and presenting a giant flag during the singing of “God Bless America” and the playing of the national anthem at the pre-race ceremony. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Meghan Skrepenski, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen appreciated the experience of the Toyota Owners 400 race at Richmond International Raceway Apr. 26, 2014. Approximately 65 service members participated in the different pre-race events including interacting with the public at the mobile recruiting station, meeting Dale Earnhardt Jr. during a private ceremony, catching a flag dropped by a skydiver, presenting a giant flag during the singing of “God Bless America,” and the playing of the National Anthem at the pre-race ceremony.

The mobile recruiting station was staffed at RIR by 10 full-time recruiters and approximately 10 volunteers from the Va. Army National Guard. The MRS included a fitness challenge with pushups or sit-ups for potential recruits, a driving simulation game, Va. National Guard informational fliers and the opportunity for pictures with the National Guard racecar. The MRS saw approximately 5,000 potential recruits and visitors over the course of the weekend at RIR.

“The Recruiting and Retention Battalion has a good relationship with Richmond International Raceway, and they have been very supportive of our troops and have provided opportunities for them to participate in almost every NASCAR race since 2009,” said Sgt. 1st Class John W. Lewis, recruiting and retention noncommissioned officer. “The Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia Guard appreciate the opportunities to participate in the opening ceremonies, and have in turn quickly become NASCAR fans.”

Just prior to the race, Earnhardt, driver of the NASCAR National Guard car, met with approximately 25 service members at the National Guard Mobile Recruiting Display hospitality bus, where he answered personal questions presented by the service members, ranging from what he “loved most about racing” to “what was his favorite color?” The service members in attendance at the bus varied from retirees, to wounded warriors, to new Soldiers who were anticipating leaving for advanced individual training within the upcoming months.

“I’m new to this type of thing, it is nice to be a part of this fantastic event, and I’m glad for the opportunity,” said Pfc. Jake Sori, who attended the event with his sister Pfc. Jordan Sori. The siblings are leaving for AIT this summer, and have not been able to enjoy an event honoring the National Guard before.

Spc. Faith E. Threatt of the 229th Military Police Company, based out of Virginia Beach, volunteered at the MRS and assisted with the unfurling of the flag during the pre-race ceremony. “I enjoyed being able to interact with the public at the recruiting station,” said Threatt. “It was nice to be able to demonstrate and talk about what the National Guard can do.”

The Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen were honored to present the nation’s colors during the national anthem and would appreciate the opportunity if invited to do so again, said Lewis.

Photos: Va. National Guard service members experience pre-race events at RIR on April 26, 2014