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A different side of NASCAR: as the stock car racing troopers visit Walter Reed and Arlington Cemetery

  A visit to Walter Reed gives drivers a different perspective on life (L-R, David Ragan, Joe Nemechek, Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya) (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   DOVER, Del.
   America's fallen soldiers pass through this military gateway home, and twice a year, when NASCAR plays at Dover International Speedway, drivers drop by Walter Reed Army Medical Center, just down the road, to visit with the injured and recuperating men and women serving the county.
   It is always an emotional experience: "Yes, it was," Tony Stewart says.
   "It's a bad situation to have to visit them there, because you realize that they are there for serious injuries. But that is some of the strongest group of people I have ever met.
   "If everybody in the nation could spend 30 minutes with one of those soldiers -- whether they like the war or dislike the war, agreed with or disagreed with, whatever the case -- they would at least be supportive of the soldiers that are in this war. Maybe it would change some of the things they say about it.
    "These guys are THE strongest group of people I have ever met in my life.
    "All they want to do is get back to their troops…and that is what they are focused on -- getting healthy and getting back over there."
   This time NASCAR drivers also visited Arlington National Cemetery. Jeff Gordon called that "a huge honor.
    "The National Guard has been a great sponsor for us this year, and I have learned so much about what they do in all different aspects of the military, and the in-depth details you just don't see and hear about.
    "To have the opportunity to go to Arlington Cemetery…it is an eye-opening experience.
     "It puts a lot of things in perspective, just how men and women in the military have sacrificed so us, for our freedom.
    "Then you go to see the changing of the guard and lay the wreath…Wow.
    "It's definitely an emotional experience…something I was truly honored to be a part of, and pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice."
    Juan Pablo Montoya called the day "very special.
    "I was really amazed with the attitude of all the guys there. It’s incredible how positive everybody is. It’s an example.
    "When you struggle and you complain about things, and you look at them and you look at their attitude it’s a shame -- It’s a shame on me and everybody who is like me,I guess.”
    And NASCAR put on not just a meet-and-greet but a full-fledged show for the troops there, complete with rock band Foreigner.


   Twice a season NASCAR men visit Walter Reed (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



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