Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A special Auto Week issue this past week had incredible features covering the wounded military vets and how they are coping with lost limbs and driving


in San Antonio near Brooke Army Medical Center, Automotivation is a program that helps restore the spirits and skills of wounded American military members by getting them back into the garage and into an environment where they can reconnect with their automotive passions.

Created in 2006 by founder Janis Roznowski and her team at Operation Comfort, a nonprofit group that supports wounded military members,  retired Army Sgt. Chris Leverkuhn runs the program and knows about cars, pain and healing. An avid wrench-turner as a teen Indiana, he joined the Army in 2003 and deployed to Iraq. In 2004, he was hit by a roadside bomb while driving a fuel truck and became one of the war's early amputees, losing his right leg below the knee while sustaining multiple burns. 

This year, the program was forced to move unexpectedly from its previous donated shop. The group hopes to find a permanent home in a former General Motors warehouse in San Antonio if the funds can be raised to purchase the building and equipment donations are secured. The National Auto Body Council (NABC) has stepped up to lead the fundraising drive within the automotive industry. Sherwin-Williams has joined to help with the shop layout.

Read more 

Operation Comfort was started by Janis Roznowski, an American Airlines flight attendant who was part of a team transporting soldiers to and from the Middle East. Janis says, "Having had the great experience of being in the presence of some of the bravest men and women I have eve met, makes me realize that we can never do enough for them. I believe that our military men and women are truly our nation’s National Treasure. Now that they are wounded, we must do what we can for them."

All of Keselowski's passengers had been instructed to clap their hands and say their names, to help with the editing of the in-car video that they'd get a copy of.
“Clap your hands and say your name loud, and we'll get going!” Keselowski said.
A brief pause. “I, uh, only have one hand,” Galloway said. Immediately, a crewman and Keselowski both held a hand up for Galloway to clap, and they were off for a 180-mph ride.
Galloway, an Army sergeant, was in Iraq on his second tour of duty in 2005. In the southern part of Baghdad, his Humvee ran over a trip wire, and an explosive device sent the Humvee into a canal, on its side, with Galloway unconscious. He lost his left arm and his left leg.
But on this weekend, Galloway and a half-dozen other wounded warriors not only got a ride around Talladega with Keselowski or Dodge teammate Parker Kligerman, they were at the track for the race, hosted like VIPs. “Instead of celebrating and having fun, he's back here on Monday to be with us,” Galloway said. “It's hard to express how much we appreciate that.”
Families were included, and those getting the ride around the track included one other person each wounded vet selected.
Race 2 Recovery is funded by Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation, which he started in 2010. It is dedicated largely to helping former military members in need. The program carries two Penske Dodges, outfitted with the latest speed and safety equipment, to give rides to wounded warriors selected by area Veterans Affairs offices. There are donors, and Penske Racing supplied the cars, but a lot of the funding comes out of Keselowski's pocket.
Besides Talladega, the Race 2 Recovery program hosts veterans for three-day programs at Michigan, Charlotte, Richmond and, in August, at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Read more: 

I'm renewing my subscription (that I just started to see if I'd like this magazine, and I do!) because they ran this special issue with these two articles, plus a couple others. Nuf said?

CNN did a story about the Race 2 Recovery program that Keselowski has, and with more info...

his foundation, run by former Navy Lt. Andrea Ross, work with local Veterans Affairs hospitals to bring vets and their families to the track for a VIP experience.
Hospital staff recommends the honorees -- many amputees or in wheelchairs -- as either deserving of special praise or being in need of a morale boost.
"A lot of our honorees haven't been out of the house in quite some time. So it's a great way to get them out and get them on their feet," Keselowski says.
The highlight of the program happens after the race's final lap. When the grandstands empty out and race crews have headed home, Keselowski gets back behind the wheel for an extra day to give his honorees a once-in-a-lifetime experience -- a high-speed joy ride around the track.
He gets help from his Penske Racing teammate Parker Kligerman. Kligerman drives a second car for honorees' family members who also might feel the need for speed.
"I hope they take a glimpse of what we do but almost at the same time a glimpse of getting away from some tumultuous experience they've had as a veteran of war," Kligerman says. "And hopefully racing is something that they can become a fan of through this experience and have something to look forward to week in and week out."


Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation was incorporated in late July of 2010 and received its 501(c)(3) status a few short months later. The Foundation strives to support those individuals who have sacrificed greatly for America, including military members, veterans, first-responders and their families, among others.

 Since its inception, CFF has hosted or participated in events with the Wounded Warrior Project, the Armed Forces Foundation, The Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the Detroit F.I.R.E. benefit team and the federal Veterans Administration. 

We will continue to aggressively seek out organizations and individuals who support America’s heroes and recognize them and their families for the sacrifices they’ve made through grants, special events and more. For more information, or to volunteer to help the CFF at events, please send a detailed e-mail info@checkeredflagfoundation.org expressing your needs or interests.

If you know of a story that needs some additional word spread to let people know, like these two, send it my way jbohjkl@yahoo.com . If you know of a program, association, club, or business that helps out the US military vets that didn't come back from the war with all the body parts that they brought to it... I want to let the other readers know about these good people, programs, etc etc. So email me about them too! jbohjkl@yahoo.com

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