From racetrack to Iraq, Heroes race into hearts of servicemembers
May 17, 2008
Drag racing idols Clay Millican, Erica Enders, Phil Burkart and National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing great Jeremy Mayfield made a pit stop to visit with servicemembers on Victory Base Complex Saturday as part of their Morale, Welfare and Recreation Racing Heroes tour.
The four racing idols are spending 12 days meeting with troops across Kuwait and Iraq, and along the way finding heroes of their own, while achieving the experience of a lifetime.
"We're getting to see a lot of things most people back in the states would never get to see," Millican said, a drag racer with the National Hotrod Association. "It's a little scary, but so far it's been quite an experience, and it's nice to see these extremely young people over here making it so that I can drive a racecar for a living."
The racers are in Iraq for their first time ever, and have not only enjoyed it, but gained a brand new understanding of the situation in country.
"I had no idea the whole armed forces were run as well as they are, and as many kids are doing the things they are," Millican said.
"If you just sit at home in the states and listen to the media, you would think that everybody's depressed and not wanting to be here, but that's not the case at all," Mayfield said, a NASCAR stock car racer. "Everybody's proud to be here, from what I've seen."
From its visit, the group of drivers has had the chance to see pride at its finest, and they see that many troops aren't over here because they have to be, but because they want to be.
"We flew over to Iraq on a C-130, and we got to fly with Soldiers," said Erica Enders, an NHRA drag racer. "I know what would be going through my head if I were sitting on that bench, and they were talking and joking with us, and saying how honored they were to be here. It's so cool. It makes you just want to cry."
As excited as thousands of military members were to meet them, the four racers were just as thrilled to spend time with and support the Soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who fight for their country.
"[The servicemembers] have all been really cool and super appreciative that we're here, but this is something cool that we get to say we did, and we're here for them," Enders said.
As their tour continues, and especially as it comes to a close, these four racing heroes will have gained a new respect for the troops on ground, and in return given them as much enjoyment as possible.
"I want to leave here knowing that we, as a group, made some type of impact, whether it's here or at home," Mayfield said. "The experience, itself, is going to be all I could have ever asked for."
"We just hope to give the troops a little piece of home where they're not thinking about their next mission or the next flight they're going to take," Millican said. "If we can give them a few minutes to kind of escape from what they're doing every day, I think that's a pretty big thing."