Race Command For The 52nd Coca-Cola 600 To Be Delivered By Heroic Marine Who Returned To Combat After Losing Leg
Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson, First Above-the-Knee Amputee to Go Back to Battlefield, Will Give “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines” Command at Charlotte Motor Speedway
CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 28, 2011 – Even in a long line of American military heroes, Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson stands out. He’s the first service member to return to the front lines after losing a leg above the knee.
Coca-Cola and racing fans around the country will pay tribute to Gibson’s unmatched heroism and the unending service of the entire U.S. military during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway this Memorial Day weekend.
Gibson is delivering the command for the 52nd running of the Coca-Cola 600 (May 29, 6 p.m. on FOX) as a guest of Coca-Cola. Joining Gibson in delivering the most famous words in motorsports will be John Falkenbury, president of the North Carolina chapter of the USO, the organization that brings a touch of home to American service members around the globe.
Gibson’s military service is a story of strength, determination, and unwavering commitment to country and colleagues. In May 2006, while serving with the Marines in Iraq, Gibson and fellow service members on patrol in Ramadi came under sniper attack. Gibson was struck in the left knee. Despite a devastating injury, he continued to return fire.
Back in the United States, Gibson never lost focus of his goal to return to battle. Fitted with a prosthetic leg, he learned to walk, run, ski and swim. After competing in the grueling Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, his commanders offered him a return stint in Iraq – a deployment Gibson eagerly accepted.
Gibson, who now works at the Pentagon, will be joined at the track by his family, including his father, William Gibson, Sr., a Vietnam War veteran who will be celebrating his 71st birthday on race day.
“Paying tribute to America’s military has become part of the Memorial Day weekend tradition as thousands of fans gather for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” said Ben Reiling, Director, Sports Marketing, Coca-Cola North America. “By recognizing a true hero like Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson, Coca-Cola is inviting racing fans everywhere to join together in celebrating all of America’s dedicated service members.”
In addition to honoring Gibson, Coca-Cola 600 festivities will pay tribute to all veterans and active U.S. military servicemen and women. The spectacular pre-race show will include a military assault demonstration by Special Operations soldiers from Ft. Bragg, N.C., on-stage recognition of Medal of Honor recipients, the unfurling of an 11,250 square-foot American flag by family members of active-duty soldiers, and an inspiring flyover by military aircraft.
Tickets for Troops
Coca-Cola and North Carolina-based Coca-Cola Consolidated are partnering to provide 600 tickets to troops stationed at area bases. The companies have purchased the tickets through a program called Let the Troops Race, which gives individuals and companies the chance to purchase tickets for just $20 to send a member of the U.S. armed forces to the Memorial Day Weekend race.
In addition, Charlotte Motor Speedway offers specially priced race tickets to all members of the U.S. armed forces who wish to purchase tickets directly. Military personnel can contact the ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS and supply a military identification number for specific details.
Coca-Cola and NASCAR
The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest continuous race sponsorship in NASCAR. Coca-Cola has been involved with stock car racing for more than 50 years and has been the official sparkling beverage of NASCAR since 1998. Through its partnerships with International Speedway Corporation, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Coca-Cola refreshes racing fans at the majority of NASCAR-sanctioned tracks. A signature part of the brand’s NASCAR association is the Coca-Cola Racing Family – a group of top drivers that includes Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Bobby Labonte, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and alumni drivers Dale Jarrett, Ned Jarrett, Kyle Petty and Michael Waltrip. Coca-Cola Racing Family members make appearances and are featured in advertising, promotions and packaging.
About The Coca-Cola Company
The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is the world’s largest beverage company, refreshing consumers with more than 500 sparkling and still brands. The Company’s portfolio includes 15 billion dollar brands, including Coca-Cola, recognized as the world’s most valuable brand, as well as Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid, Simply and Georgia. Globally, we are the No. 1 provider of sparkling beverages, juices and juice drinks and ready-to-drink teas and coffees. Through the world’s largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the Company’s beverages at a rate of 1.7 billion servings a day. With an enduring commitment to building sustainable communities, our Company is focused on initiatives that protect the environment, conserve resources and enhance the economic development of the communities where we operate. For more information about our Company, please visit our website at www.thecoca-colacompany.com.
About the USO
The USO (United Service Organizations) lifts the spirits of America’s armed forces and their families. We provide a touch of home to troops wherever they serve through centers at airports and military bases around the world, top quality entertainment and innovative programs and services tailored to meet the needs of troops and their families. The USO is not a government agency and relies on the generosity of the American people. The USO is also supported by Worldwide Strategic Partners AT&T Inc., BAE Systems, The Boeing Company, Clear Channel Communications, The Coca-Cola Company, Gallery Furniture, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation, S & K Sales Co. and TriWest Healthcare Alliance. Other corporate donors, including the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign (CFC-11381), have joined millions of individual donors to support the USO. For more information, please visit www.uso.org.