Speedway Motorsports, Inc. unveiled a new initiative Sunday before the Coca-Cola 600 that is designed to help members of the military make the transition back to civilian life.
"Our company does a lot around celebrating our armed forces, particularly this weekend and really everywhere across all eight of our speedways that are connected with multiple bases around the country," Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith said. "We wanted to really formalize that, and today I'm really proud to announce a new program called Welcome Home Patriots.
"Today, we celebrate and salute our heroes. We really want to do more to help our heroes come home and get them reengaged and re-acclimated into civilian life. That's what this is all about."
Welcome Home Patriots will be led by retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Chuck Swannack, who highlighted the three pillars of the program: Salute, Engage and Enable.
The "Enable" pillar was highlighted Sunday when the Independence Fund donated a terrain-tracked wheelchair to injured Navy veteran Doug Hill of Knoxville, Tennessee. The Independence Fund is a non-profit to help better the lives of catastrophically injured veterans, and its Mobility Program presented the wheelchair to Hill alongside Smith and Swannack.
"I want to thank everybody for having us out and all the great programs that made it possible for us to be here today," Hill said. "They've given great things to us and our family. Most of all, I think it's important that we remember what this weekend is all about. It's not about myself, it's not about any other veterans in the room - although I'm sure there's some pretty incredible ones around - but this weekend is about the guys who didn't make it home. It's about the fathers, the sons, the daughters, the brothers, the sisters - all of them who are missed this weekend, missed every day.
"This weekend, it's most important to remember the sacrifices they gave that we have the freedom to gather here and enjoy this great NASCAR event."
Swannack said Welcome Home Patriots will have several partner organizations like Independence Fund, Purple Heart Homes and others to help further the cause of aiding veterans.
"We're going to try to create that environment with those three pillars to welcome home our patriots who have served our nation," Swannack said.