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Fri, 26 Sep 2003, 11:23 AM

U.S. Army Hosts NHRA Contingent at Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery
Courtesy of Chris Dirato

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Just prior to arriving at Memphis Motorsports Park here last weekend for the O’Reilly Mid-South Nationals, a contingent from the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series enjoyed a slice of Washington, D.C., courtesy of the U.S. Army.

A group of drivers, crew chiefs, sponsor and manufacturer representatives, as well as NHRA staffers, experienced a VIP tour of the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery following the postponement of the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading, Pa.

“We wanted to host this select group of people as a way of saying thanks for their support, overall, as well as their support of our soldiers,” said Tom Tiernan of the U.S. Army Accessions Command out of Fort Knox.

Among those on the tour were U.S. Army Racing pilots Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, Angelle Savoie and Antron Brown. Other drivers in the group included Gary Scelzi, Jeg Couglin, Jr. and Del Worsham.

Clearly, there were two particular stops that touched the entire group. The 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon produced plenty of tears, as did a special wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington National Cemetery.

Couglin and Savoie joined Ben Reiling of Coca-Cola and the NHRA’s Gary Darcy for the wreath-laying ceremony.

“Very emotional,” said Savoie of the experience. “When taps was played, I had to wipe my eyes. Going through the Pentagon was also something I will remember for a long time. It was very educational. I probably learned more in one day there than my entire 12 years of education. Of course, the 9/11 Memorial got to all of us.”

“It was a real honor to participate in such a terrific day,” added Reiling. “First, we had the opportunity to walk the halls at the Pentagon where so many great Americans have served our country, then be involved in a special ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. I can tell you, I still don’t have the words to describe the feeling I had when we placed the wreath. I had such a wave of emotions.”

Coughlin, Jr. probably best summed up everyone’s thoughts as the group prepared to disperse.

“Simply, unbelievable,” he said. “There’s no other way to describe what we saw today.”

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