DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. --
Over 100 service members gathered at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Fla., July 7, 2018, for a flag unfurling before the night’s race, the Daytona Coke Zero Sugar 400.
Airmen from both Patrick and Moody Air Force Bases, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen took to the infield to unfurl a football field-sized American flag during the National Anthem on Saturday – as a part of NASCAR Salutes, NASCAR’s annual nod to America’s military.
The National Anthem rang out through speakers in the speedway, but the final notes were almost drowned out by the thunderous applause and cheering from NASCAR fans to the military flag-holders waving the banner, as two F-22 Raptor aircraft from the 43rd Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flew over to conclude the anthem.
Once the final notes sounded and the applause died down – both the crowd and service members alike were directed to look toward the stage where three Medal of Honor recipients were standing to be honored as part of the pre-race ceremonies.
The soldiers that were honored for their bravery, selflessness and acts of valor were U.S. Army Master Sgt. Leroy Petry, Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, Army Staff Sgt. Dan Jenkins and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell, both Vietnam veterans.
Stories of how each hero received their medal were told and the crowd applauded each. Approximately 150 service members on the field stood stationary displaying our Nation’s colors and honored the sacrifices of the three MOH recipients – as well as the sacrifices of countless others in the military.
The Speedway didn’t just honor those presented with the military’s highest decoration, however – they also brought together a family. Tech. Sgt. Samuel Weirton, a MI-17 Air Advisor with the Air Force 442 Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, surprised his wife and two children, as he walked out on stage after a message from him was played. This was Weirton’s fifth deployment.
Service members and race-goers also had the opportunity to enjoy performances by Max Impact, the United States Air Force’s premier rock band, and country music artist Josh Turner before the race began.
Once the pre-race ceremonies concluded, the service members left the field carrying the flag, which weighed over 1,000 pounds, and were directed to their seats to enjoy the race with other NASCAR fans and their loved ones.