By John W. PeelerApril 28, 2009
For one weekend, Silver Star recipient SSG John J. Zamarripa, 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, put his Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course study material aside to represent the Army in a different mission - the Army recruiting mission.
Zamarripa was honored as a "Hometown Hero" during the National Hot Rod Association Southern Nationals in Atlanta April 16-19 as a part of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion-Atlanta Army Strength in Action Zone where he spoke with NHRA fans about Army opportunities and his experiences.
"I do love the Army and I have had good experiences," he said. "So that is why I was there, to share it. And, I had a great time. And, my old sergeant major was there, Command Sergeant Major Moore. He read the NCO Creed and recognized four new NCOs."
Zamarripa said the NHRA fans who visited the zone appeared to have a good time with the different events.
"We got people started off in a Humvee that had big TV screens around it and ran it through different scenarios for them," he said. "Then, there was a competition with a drill sergeant to see how many pushups the fans could do in two minutes. The fans also got a chance to operate some of the new robotics we have, like the EOD robot. At the end, they got their dog tags. They (fans) seemed to like it.
Part of Zamarripa's weekend was spent talking to fans, ROTC students, teachers, professors and local community leaders about his experiences in the Army, said Jacob Ricker of the New York-based Weber Shandwick public relations service.
Many of the fans Zamarripa spoke to wanted to know why he joined the Army, what the Army had done for him, what was good about the Army, and the one topic he would rather forget - how and why he got the Silver Star, he said.
"I told them I didn't really do anything but be an NCO," Zamarripa said. "My lieutenant (1LT Ross Pixler), my medics and my Soldiers were the heroes."
Zamarripa was awarded the Silver Star for heroism while serving with A Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment in Salman Pak south of Baghdad Oct. 30, 2007.
The weekend trip to Atlanta Dragway also gave Zamarripa an opportunity to meet six-time world champion Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher who pilots the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
"I got to meet Tony, and he met my wife Janet and daughter Kaylie," he said. "We had lunch and just really had a great time. He is a great guy."
Although the Schumacher driven dragster lost in the semifinals, Zamarripa said being in the pit and being around the car was a great experience.
"I was right there by the tree," he said. "Standing 20 meters from the car and the start line. When it takes off it goes like 1,000 feet in three seconds at 326 mph. You could feel it (the power) it in your chest. That was pretty awesome."
The weekend didn't last forever for Zamarripa, though, and on Monday he was back at BNCOC preparing for two tests he missed on Saturday - he passed both of them on the first attempt.