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It happens at the beginning of almost every race; the Star-Spangled Banner ends to a rousing round of applause from the stands, closely followed by the thundering roar from a flight of F-14s. Each time I experience this combination of patriotism and muscular display of our nation’s military, I get goosebumps. Sharing a smile with those fans standing next to me, I watch while my husband frantically clicks off a bunch of shots on his camera.
But besides the reverberation in my blood, there is a greater point to that moment. Perhaps the musicians are talented and the jets are really impressive, but it’s too easy to forget exactly what it is we are experiencing. And I don’t mean the prelude to “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!”
This weekend, we were reminded of just how important those experiences are. At 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, President Obama called for America to hold a moment of silence for those that have served and are serving in our Armed Forces. Appropriately, NASCAR joined in this Memorial Day tribute.
The yellow was thrown right in the middle of the race, where the field was brought to a stop on the frontstretch. Lowe’s had all of the American flags brought to half-mast and the crowd was asked to stand. The crews of all the teams lined pit road, and many were seen with their hand over their heart.
It was, perhaps, the most poignant moment I’ve witnessed during a NASCAR race in quite some time. I, too, stopped for a moment and thanked the powers that be that of all my relatives that have served overseas, none of them paid the ultimate price.
I visited Arlington National Cemetery about a month ago. Its silent hills are dotted with the white stones that mark the passage of many a staunch soldier. Beauty in this solemn place is encouraged with well-tended lawns and the song of birds, giving character to a place immortalized by those who could not escape. Tourists, such as I, walk the paths quietly, respecting the messages left by those that fought.
Arlington is a living memorial for our nation. As a country, we cherish it by holding ceremonies full of flags, ribbons and music. But, is it not our responsibility to demonstrate our love for our country and those that serve it in our daily lives?
That is one of the reasons that I have respected NASCAR for many years. There is rarely a race where pit road is not littered with uniformed men and women, enjoying pit passes and special invitations from various teams. The soldiers present our nation’s colors with respect and precision during pre-race festivities. And yes, NASCAR calls upon military airbases to provide flyovers for almost every event.
Maybe other sports sing the song and wave the flag, but it’s NASCAR that places the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard out front and center, thanking those that always stand to lose the most in the line of duty. Monday’s complete cessation of competition in respect of the National Moment of Silence was just one more way that my favorite sport demonstrated just how committed we are to giving the members of our military every possible respect.
So to everyone serving our nation, I thank you. I pray that if you are far from your loved ones, you can return soon, whole and hale.