NASCAR, Coca-Cola welcome troops at Daytona
July 04, 2014, Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com
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Capping a seven-week salute to U.S. troops, NASCAR and Coca-Cola has debuted The Troops Welcome Center, a respite located in the Daytona midway. And the large tent has provided more than a thank you to active troops and military veterans and their families. It's provided a much-appreciated oasis from the heat and occasional rain.
"We think it's fantastic," said Lester Kyle, 74, a Marine from 1956-59, who now lives in Vero Beach, Fla. "The sodas and the waters and the snacks for us to have are great. I think I got to the track around 10:30, and I've been in here three or four times."
In addition to Coca-Cola beverages and snacks, racing simulators, games, prizes and the display of "thank you" walls signed by thousands, the venue is giving servicemen and families the chance to meet NASCAR drivers and legends. Dale Jarrett, Darrell Wallace Jr., Casey Mears and Aric Almirola were among the celebrities to greet the troops on Friday. Greg Biffle, Leonard Wood and Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III are scheduled for appearances on Saturday.
"The fact that (NASCAR and Coca-Cola) have taken their resources to do this is awesome," said John Freed, 21, a senior cadet from the Emory-Riddle Army ROTC program which assisted in operating the activities under the tent at Daytona. "It's incredibly hot outside, and this gives everyone a chance to cool off for a second. Usually you don't see this kind of thanks given back to the troops. It's been awesome to be able to help out, talk to the veterans and hear their stories."
NASCAR: An American Salute began on Memorial Day weekend, and Daytona International Speedway paid tribute to four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from the Vietnam War with a luncheon on Friday.
Major General Bernard "Burn" Loeffke will serve as Honorary Pace Car Driver. The general retired from the Army in 1992 and now serves on medical missions in war-torn and impoverished areas such as Bosnia, Haiti, Kenya, Iraq, Niger, Darfur, and the Amazon jungles.