By T. Anthony BellMay 6, 2010
RICHMOND, Va. (May 6, 2010) -- Pvt. David Salyers is a race fan who had never attended a National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing event.
That was true up until Saturday when the Fort Lee Soldier not only attended an event held at Henrico County's Richmond International Raceway, but participated in a flag ceremony under the watchful eyes of more than 100,000 people and millions more on television.
"It was a rush," said Salyers, an ordnance advanced individual training Soldier. "I felt like I was doing the most important thing in the world."
Saylers and more than 40 of his battle buddies from the Ordnance School were detailed to participate in the opening ceremonies of the Heath Calhoun 400 Sprint Cup race. They were in attendance along with members of Fort Lee's joint service color guard, who presented the colors during the playing of the national anthem.
The ordnance Soldiers, clad in their Army Combat Uniform, not only participated in the pre-race ceremonies but were afforded the opportunity to visit the pit areas prior to the race and see the event from the infield. They also formed part of the lane that led drivers from the introduction stage to the pit areas.
The entire experience moved Salyers' battle buddy to the expression "Awesome!" more than once. Pvt. Jesse Parrish said it all exceeded his expectations.
"It was a great privilege and honor to be able to represent our country," he said. "It was just awesome; just an awesome, awesome thing to do."
Prior to the race, many of the Fort Lee Soldiers took the opportunity to see the track and experience a little slice of NASCAR culture. Everywhere they went, race patrons shook their hands and expressed feelings of gratitude and support. Sgt. 1st Class Robert Tate, Company R, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade, and member of the color guard, said all the attention was positive but it got to be a bit discomforting.
"We feel very honored, obviously, to be in uniform and to represent our service here, but it makes you feel uncomfortable at times," said the Soldier assigned as an instructor at the Quartermaster School here. "They thank you for your service but you feel like you're not doing anything out of the ordinary. You're doing what you're meant to do, what you were called to do."
Tate and the other members of the color guard that included Airmen and Marines assigned to Fort Lee, also presented the colors in the Nationwide Series race the night before.
Military members of Fort Lee have participated in races held at Richmond for many years.
Heath Calhoun is a former Soldier who lost both legs during an attack in Iraq. Fans selected the Grundy native as the race's namesake.