LINCOLNTON, N.C. -- There were 13 times this season when Doug Herbert could look into his Snap-on Tools/Doug Herbert Performance Parts pit area and see several smiling faces.
But these faces were different.
These faces belonged to the men and women of the United States Marine Corps. Herbert played host to 13 VIP tour groups that featured nearly 100 Marines who have returned home from overseas battle in the Middle East.
"My younger sister Heather is in the Army's JAG Corps so I think I have a real appreciation for what the soldiers go through because I pay even closer attention to what's happening over there because of Heather," Herbert said. "The soldiers are doing a real tough job over there and bringing some of the Marines out to the races for a day of behind-the-scenes tours, special gifts and just in general a great day off is the least I can do to thank them for their service."
Herbert provided the special groups with tickets, access to the pit, the Snap-on Tools team haulers as well as meet-n-greet opportunities with other drivers. The program won't end this season. Herbert wants to make sure he keeps on supporting the troops.
"We have to talk about what races we can host the Marines at in 2006 because I really loved having them hanging out with our team this season," Herbert said. "It was a real positive boost for the entire organization.
"The best part was seeing the Marine flag fly from our pit area. I had every single one of the special guests sign the banner and I will treasure that forever."
The program started when Herbert started a friendship with United States Marine Corps Major Philip Toretti in 2004. Herbert invited Toretti to a race once he returned from his tour of duty overseas and the two have remained close friends ever since.
The special treatment by Herbert and the team throughout an NHRA event weekend made a lasting impression with Toretti. He approached Herbert about hosting more Marines and Herbert jumped at the chance to help out any way he could.
Toretti worked with local Marine contacts to organize the groups.
"I am not sure I can even muster the words to scratch the surface of expressing our thanks and gratitude four Doug's generosity and everything that Doug and the entire Snap-on Tools team has done for the program," Toretti said. "It still amazes me how the entire NHRA community not only accepted the program but embraced it with open arms. The whole experience has added another line to the definition of service."
Now Herbert can look forward to more visits with Marines who have made their way back home.
"It's so fun to have the Marines around because the enthusiasm they have is just infectious," Herbert said. "They are so appreciative of the deal but it's great that we can do something for them. I can't thank the soldiers enough for what they are doing for us."
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