America Supports You: Golfers, NASCAR Enthusiasts Honor Troops
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 5, 2007 Participants in the quietest sport -- golf -- and America’s loudest sport -- NASCAR -- combined forces to pay tribute to troops the past two days.
John Riggins, left, a former Washington Redskins star player, and Michael Crickenberger, vice president of DuPont government business development, pose in front of the replica DuPont / America Supports You NASCAR racecar before the Patriotic Opener at PGA Tournament Players Club Avenel in Potomac, Md., June 4, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly A. Burgess
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Nearly 120 golfers hit the links during yesterday’s Patriotic Opener at PGA Tournament Players Club Avenel in Potomac, Md., where a replica of Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 DuPont-sponsored NASCAR vehicle was on display. Today, the car rolled into the Pentagon courtyard here, where fans had the chance to see it up close.
The events were in partnership with America Supports You, a Defense Department program that connects citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad, and raised funds for several partnering nonprofit organizations.
“It means so much to our troops and their families that you would take a day to golf, and more than that, to put some reason and passion into your golf today,” Allison Barber told participants yesterday. Barber is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison, and the creator of the America Supports You program.
Barber thanked the golfers and sponsors, saying their continued support can help “to make sure that our men and women in the military and their families know that no matter what people think about the war, there’s something that we’re very united on in this country, and that’s the fact that the American people do support our troops.”
Before teeing off, participants were split into groups of four and sat in golf carts as they were addressed by several speakers, including Pro Football Hall of Fame running back John Riggins, known as “The Diesel” during his 15-year National Football League career with the New York Jets and Washington Redskins.
“I’m here to help make sure everybody’s aware of the tremendous effort that our servicepeople are providing overseas,” Super Bowl XVII’s most valuable player told American Forces Press Service. “They’re a real, true inspiration to our country. I think any working person has to look at them and just admire what they’ve done, considering the conditions they have to go to work in day in and day out. We want to make sure that they do know that we thank them, and thank them profusely.”
Before yesterday’s event, Michael Sullivan, general manager at TPC Avenel, invited all members of the community to join in thanking troops for the sacrifices they make on their country’s behalf.
“We are extremely proud to have the opportunity to support the brave men and women of our armed forces who perform selfless acts of bravery on a daily basis in order to preserve the freedom of all Americans,” he said.
Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides financial help and emergency services such as car and home repairs for military members who return from war, was one of the beneficiaries of the fundraiser at Avenel.
“With as many returning wounded warriors as there are coming home, there’s never enough money to help all of them,” said Amy Palmer, executive vice president of Operation Homefront. “Events like this help us to not have to turn away families who come to us when they’re in need.”
As a special treat, the NASCAR vehicle driven by DuPont-sponsored driver Jeff Gordon was on display near the Avenel putting green. A large America Supports You logo is affixed to the hood of Gordon’s car, which whizzed past more than 180,000 screaming fans and a national television ausience during the Coca-Cola 600 race on May 27 in Charlotte, N.C.
“For us to have the America Supports You and Department of Defense logo on the car was really important, and we’re quite happy to give up the hood space for the race in Charlotte last weekend in order to show our support,” said Michael H. Crickenberger, vice president of government business development for DuPont.
DuPont has supplied the U.S. military for more than 200 years, Crickenberger said, since receiving its first request to supply black powder for Thomas Jefferson.
“Not only is (the military) an important customer, but DuPont has responded every time there’s been a national need for us to participate,” he said. “We appreciate everything the military folks do.”
Today, wide-eyed fans marveled at the vehicle coated in bright blue and loud yellow paint sitting in the Pentagon courtyard.
“This is very aerodynamic; this car is made for the super speedway -- it’s real fast,” said Bob Carroll, a longtime NASCAR fan.
Carroll said his wife has offered to treat him to an instructional course at a driving school, where Carroll would have the chance to get behind the wheel of a similar speed demon. “I may take her up on that,” he said.
For some fans, today’s event allowed them the chance to quiz experts like Ken Torrence, a representative of Hendrick Motorsports, on the various equipment specs. “They’ll run about 205 (mph) on a racetrack straightaway,” he said about the car with an engine that packs about 850 horsepower.
NASCAR fans who are treated to the up-close display always enjoy the experience, Torrence said.
“It’s probably as close as a lot of them will ever get to one,” he said. “Even at the track you’re still a ways off from them.”