Let’s Go Racin’ Boys

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Cars race through the egg shaped track at Darlington Raceway during the Bojangles’ Southern 500, Sept. 6, 2015. Thirty Army Reserve Soldiers and Family members with the 108th Training Command (IET) and 415th Chemical Brigade gave up their long Labor Day weekend to shuttle disabled people from the ADA parking lot to the track for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 NASCAR race in Darlington, S.C., Sept. 5-6. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton, 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs

DARLINGTON, S.C. — ‘It’ has transformed over the years from just a sport to a way of life.

‘It’ has but two simple rules: drive fast, turn left.

‘It’ has its own language: echoed by thousands in just three heart-pumping words: boogity, boogity, boogity!

And fans across America argue ‘it’ is the real Great American pastime.

For many, walking trackside at Darlington Raceway can be exhilarating: that oh so familiar smell of burning oil and rubber against the sealed asphalt of the Lady in Black, that familiar roar of high octane Sunoco racing fuel burning through state of the art engines on a mile and a quarter egg-shaped track. Yet, for others it can be burdensome and that’s where the Army Reserve comes to the rescue.

A combined effort of thirty volunteers consisting of Soldiers and their Family members from the 108th Training Command (IET) and 335th Signal Command took to the track on an overcast Labor Day weekend to lend a hand with one goal in mind, help those who need help.

During a two-day mission, those selfless volunteers, with a playful smirk upon their faces, occupied 30 six–passenger golf carts and shuttled hundreds of disabled (and a few inebriated) race fans to and from the ADA parking lot to their seats along trackside, the infield and the museum, coincidentally logging close to 500 miles themselves along the way during the Bojangles’ Southern 500 Race weekend.

“I’ve been working with the disabled for seven years now. I love it. And I love working with the Army Reserve, but you all sure do tear some stuff up,” laughed Richard Jernigan, the Americans with Disabilities Act supervisor for Darlington Raceway.

“You did better this year though!” he added.

Jernigan logs close to 14 hours a day overseeing the shuttle operation on race weekend but says he’ll keep coming back as long as they’ll let him.

“I don’t ever get to see the race, but that’s all right. I like to talk and there are no better people to talk to than these people right here in Darlington.”

Staff Sgt. Rahman Williams, 108th Training Command (IET), made the drive from Charlotte, North Carolina, to lend a helping hand for his first NASCAR event at the request of a persuasive sergeant major but said he was very impressed with all of the volunteers and the race itself.

“The need to help others was there and I didn’t have anything else to do so I said OK. The workload was pretty heavy today compared to yesterday but it was fun and the little bit of the race that I got to see was pretty cool. I’ll do it again next year if they ask,” Williams said.

Thirty Army Reserve Soldiers and Family members with the 108th Training Command (IET) and 415th Chemical Brigade gave up their long Labor Day weekend to shuttle disabled people from the ADA parking lot to the track for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 NASCAR race in Darlington, S.C., Sept. 5-6. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton, 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs

Other more experienced volunteers echoed that same thought.

Three year Darlington veteran, Staff Sgt. George Rice, 415th Chemical Brigade, 335th Signal Command said, “This isn’t just work. This is how we give back to the community and let them know that the Army Reserve is about more than just war. We’re about helping those in need as well.”

“Plus I get to see my man Jimmy Johnson, number 48,” added Rice with a celebratory clinched fist, all be it a tad premature.

So with a celebratory backflip and another 14-hour day in the books, everyone was whisked safely back to their rides. All that was left now was for those thirty Soldiers and Family members of the Army Reserve to gather and tell their war stories from a long weekend of racing.

“Do we get a driver’s badge for this?” joked a physically and mentally exhausted Sgt. Terrance Sullivan, an IT specialist with the 108th Training Command (IET) as he walked towards his ride for the two-hour trip home.

The answer: probably not Sullivan. Probably not, but hey, there’s always next year! Boogity, boogity, boogity!

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