By Tony Brazier, DeCA Corporate CommunicationsJune 29, 2016
FORT LEE, V.A. -- NASCAR driver, 2016 Daytona 500 winner and overall speed demon Denny Hamlin slowed down long enough to visit military members and their families May 25 at the Fort Bragg South Commissary.
Hamlin was in North Carolina ahead of the Memorial Day weekend and the Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. The race marks the kickoff of the annual NASCAR Salutes event, an effort to honor and celebrate the service of active duty military members, veterans and their families.
"We have a lot of great programs at NASCAR," Hamlin said. "For me, it's just a way to say thank you, to come out here and say hello to them for a day."
Before signing hundreds of autographs, meeting with commissary patrons and taking pictures with NASCAR fans, Hamlin was able to spend time at Womack Army Medical Center's Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB). The mission of the WTB is to ensure soldiers experiencing injuries or illness have everything they need to transition back into, or out of, the Army.
In anticipation of Hamlin's visit, one of the soldiers stationed at the WTB, Master Sgt. Bob Fletcher, prepared a special lunch of smoked pulled pork using his own brand of BBQ sauce, which he has created over decades serving in the military.
"I was the first sergeant of a company at the (John F. Kennedy) Special Warfare Center and School," said Fletcher, "and when we went out to the field, for the last 10 days I basically cooked for my soldiers."
Thanks to the Defense Commissary Agency, Fletcher now has a new fan in Hamlin, who said, "That was seriously probably the best BBQ sauce that I've ever had."
While Fletcher's BBQ left a lasting impression, the biggest thrill for Hamlin was interacting with service members, family members and retirees.
"Some of them are here every day and they're not able to come to a race track," Hamlin said. "That's part of the breaks that these guys get, is to be able to go to the commissary, enjoy a normal life, and have dinner with their families. If you can lighten their day just for a minute, it's all worth it."
Sallie Cauthers, DeCA's marketing and mass media specialist, noted this wasn't the first time a NASCAR driver has visited a commissary.
"The commissary is a part of military life, in so many ways, and it's great that we are able to work closely with NASCAR and our vendor partners to bring these great drivers to military installations," Cauthers said. "Visits like this one heighten morale and show how the commissary plays a big role in the quality of life for the military community."