News & Media


Memorial Day a special occasion for Newman

May 24, 2012, Ryan Newman, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

I hope that this weekend, everyone will take a moment to honor the soldiers -- the men and women -- who have made the ultimate sacrifices over the years to protect our freedoms. Whether it's a silent thank you or if you can shake the hand of the soldier, it doesn't matter. I just want everyone to recognize the reason we celebrate Memorial Day.

I'll be honest, before I started representing the U.S. Army, I probably didn't think a whole lot about the meaning of Memorial Day. I definitely took for granted what all branches of the military do for us. That was before I got the chance to meet so many soldiers and have been able to understand what they do and the stories they have.

"I'll be honest, before I started representing the U.S. Army, I probably didn't think a whole lot about the meaning of Memorial Day. I definitely took for granted what all branches of the military do for us."

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But now, after nearly four years of being behind the wheel of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevy, I definitely have a better understanding and a greater appreciation of our soldiers and what they do.

It is a great honor to me to be able to represent the U.S. Army and the more than 1 million men and women who serve our country.

And there's no better weekend to drive the soldiers' car than this weekend in the Coca-Cola 600.

To wear their colors and that Army camouflage, to carry the Army Star on my hood and to represent Army Strong -- that mental, physical and emotional strength is a strength like no other -- it's truly an honor that I can't describe. And I can only represent it. Only an Army soldier can be that.

It's different than any product sponsor I have. I'm representing people -- people who allow me the freedoms to do what I love to do, which is race and drive their race car.

I think a lot about the soldiers I have met and their stories, and each one has an impact on me. It has really made me appreciate all that I have, probably moreso than I did before.

Recently, I got to go fishing with a soldier I met at the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year. His name was Greg Stube, and he was a highly decorated Green Beret who was injured in Afghanistan. Greg has a fishing show now, and he asked me to be part of it.

When I met Greg, he said something to me that really had a big impact on me. He came up to me and introduced himself and told me who he was and he said, "You're who we fight for." And I looked at him, and I told him I wasn't sure I understood. I told him I was just proud to represent the Army and the soldiers.

And he said, "No, you are who we fight for. You're the people who respect the freedom, who enjoy doing things with your family and not having to look over your shoulder to see if there is someone putting you in danger. You're the kind of people we fight for." He took me back.

I do my best to try to represent and say thank you to all the soldiers out there, and he was thanking me for being that kind of guy for whom he can go out there and fight for our freedom. It was amazing to have the chance to talk to him.

I've told a lot of people that story recently, and I get the same response -- as one reporter said, the story gives him goose bumps.

I'm grateful for the U.S. Army sponsorship, and I'm even more grateful for the men and women who serve our country I have been able to meet along the way.

I'm doing my best to represent the colors and those people -- over a million people who fight for our freedom each and every day. I'm proud to represent them. And I really hope this weekend I can represent them in the best way possible -- and that's by winning the Coca-Cola 600. I can't think of a cooler way to say, "Thank you," to them on Memorial Day.

Behind the Wheel with Ryan Newman runs twice a month on NASCAR.COM as he shares his experiences throughout the season, both at and away from the track. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanNewman39 and online at www.ryannewman.org and www.ryannewmanfoundation.org. The opinions expressed are solely those of Newman.