By Spc. Dalinda Hanna, 41st Fires Bde. PAOMarch 16, 2011
KILLEEN, Texas - The roars of the engines and the cheers from the audience could be heard for miles as the patrons of the Texas Thunder Speedway celebrated its opening night, and driver of stock car number eight, Buck Owens, circled the track avoiding crashes and debris, March 12.
The number eight car is special to the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment because painted on its trunk is the First Strike logo and the names of the First Strike Soldiers who helped get the car together and race ready.
Vernon 'Buck' Owens, a native of Cedar Park, Texas, and a retired Chief Warrant Officer, has been racing for 46 years, and chose First Strike because his son-in-law is in Battery C, 1st Bat., 21st FA Regt., and his daughter is the family readiness group leader. Owens gives a lot of credit to the eight Soldiers who helped him get his car ready for racing and immortalized their names by painting them on the car.
"I enjoyed the Soldiers coming out to help me," said Owens. "I had a lot of good help from them and if it wasn't for them, we would not be out here right now and I would still be working on the car."
Owens raced against 18 other stock cars and came in 10th place at the feature race. Owens drives for a not-for-profit group called Racing Against Drugs, which helps teach kids to stay on the track away from drugs, and First Strike wanted to volunteer for the organization and help Owens spread the message.
Lt. Col. James Davel, originally from Shawano, Wis., and commander of 1st Bat., 21st FA Regt., 41st Fires Brigade, said that he is proud of the Soldiers for supporting the group, and says that volunteering shows a lot about the Soldiers character.
"Racing Against Drugs is a great program that not only benefits our Soldiers but the community, and we appreciate being asked to help support this outstanding cause," said Davel. "Our soldiers were able to help this race team accomplish what they wanted to accomplish and a lot of good came out of it. They got to be a part of the process in building and supporting the car and Racing Against Drugs. These are good soldiers that helped support the car and they understand the message the organization is trying to get across to the community."
Sgt. Jody Wheeler, from Syracuse, N.Y., and Multiple Launch Rocket System launcher chief for Btry. C, 1st Battalion, 21st FA Regt., is the son-in-law of Owens and said he enjoys working on the car with his father-in law.
"I volunteered because I wanted to help support my father-in-law and Racing Against Drugs. I helped with the shocks, some body work, and helped maintain the car after the races," said Wheeler. "I put the information about the car out throughout the brigade and received a great response from everyone about helping. We plan on racing every weekend and enjoy the support."
The Soldiers that volunteered were able to support a great cause and have fun in the process. Volunteering and organizational support by battalions shows a lot about Soldiers and about the brigade as a whole. First Strike Soldiers continue to support the community through various organizations and understand the importance of taking the time out to help others.