By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMay 10, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 10, 2012) -- Soldiers returning from tours overseas can be faced with many challenges, including figuring out what the next step in their life is going to be.
The Hope and Inspiration Tour, held at the Fort Rucker Automotive Skills Center May 2, looked to help returning veterans by providing opportunities that they might not have explored either in the medical field with Luke and Associates or NASCAR pit crew training with Over the Wall Crew, said Serena L. Brock, official for Luke and Associates
"What we're doing now is working with young combat veterans that are coming home and we're trying to facilitate a school-to-work program," she said. "Many of the returning Soldiers suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues … and we're working with mental health departments and counselors to help facilitate that transition home back into the civilian world."
Patrick Rummerfield, of the Kennedy Krieger institute who is also the first fully recovered quadriplegic, was in attendance and knows first hand the difficulties of having to transition back into normal life after a crash in 1974 that resulted in spinal injuries and left him without use of most of his body.
"[Our goal] is to show our support any way that we can to the men and women of our armed forces," he said. "What we want to let everyone know is to never give up and never give in. As long as you keep that in your heart, you can obtain any of your goals."
The goal of the tour was to show the different opportunities that are available, and one way of doing that was by giving people the opportunity to get first hand experience putting lug nuts on tires with the actual guns that NASCAR pit crews use during races, according to DJ Copp, owner of Over the Wall Crew pit crew training facility and ESPN analyst.
"We're providing a pit crew experience for individuals … an authentic experience," he said. "It's a realistic understanding that people have the chance to be involved in something from the NASCAR side of it -- going over the wall."
Copp, who was also a NASCAR pit crew member for 17 years, explained that the phrase going "over the wall" is when a pit crew goes over the wall on pit road during a NASCAR race to service an incoming race car.
"This is a good opportunity for people to experience what it feels like when you go over the wall because once you do, you've got 12 seconds -- it's that fast," he said.
Jordan Thornton, civilian who attended the event, heard about the event through a friend and decided to come out and see what the tour had to offer.
"I came out because I heard they had a really cool set up out here and the free food doesn't hurt either," he said. "It was really cool to be able to meet people who actually race cars and watch how fast a professional can change the lug nuts on a tire -- I didn't think it could be done that fast."
The tour was designed to not only provide opportunities in the racing field, but for those in the medical field as well through Luke and Associates, according to Copp.
Copp said he started Over the Wall to provide opportunities for young individuals that wanted to get involved in the motorsports industry, but partnered with Luke and Assoc. on the tour to provide an extra outlet for those returning from overseas.
"People can get a taste of the sports side with Over the Wall, the technical side with Ingersoll Rand or the medical side with Luke and Associates," he said.
Luke and Associates currently has 900 vacant positions to help those that might be interested in the medical field, according to Brock.
"Right now with so many people unemployed, this is a really good way that [Luke and Assoc.] can give back on multiple levels," she said. "We're very passionate about taking care of people from the medical perspective, but also our Families and friends."
For more information, visit www.otwcrew.com or www.lukemotorsports.com.