Veteran’s Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, is a day when we honor those who have severed our country in military service. Veteran’s Day is different than Memorial Day, which salutes those who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending the freedoms which we enjoy today.
Throughout drag racing’s existence, many drag racers and members of our community have answered their country’s call.
We are honored to have one of those veterans on our staff.
Director of Photography Roger Richards served in the Army during the years of 1968 – 1972, as a Morse Code Intercept operator. He originally signed up for a three-year service but extended to a fourth.
“I was a Vietnam era veteran,” said Richards, who has been CompetitionPlus.com Director of Photography since 1999. “I volunteered several times to go to Vietnam but never got sent. I always had this funny saying that they wouldn’t send me because I was so crazy, they were afraid I’d kill someone.”
Engine builder Gene Fulton, responsible for the horsepower Jim Halsey used to win the 2019 PDRA Pro Nitrous championship, served during the Vietnam War. He never stepped foot on a battlefield but experienced a few tense moments of combat from his spot in the air.
“You could see the shooting down below,” Fulton explained. “We would run in and out of the major bases, Saigon, Da Nang, and Cameron Bay, and haul cargo to the outposts. There were times we’d set down on little dirt strips. We hauled supplies where they couldn’t drive the trucks bringing in supplies. We crashed once on landing when the engines flamed out. We went into a few banks and had to fly out on the next small plane out.
“They [Vietcong] ended up mortaring the C-130 the next day.”
Two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Jack Beckman joined the United States Air Force when he was 17. He described the experience as extremely fulfilling.
“It’s a different meaning looking back on it as it was being a 17 – 21-year-old man … being 1,100 miles away from home, away from the friends I grew up with … single best decision I ever made in my life,” Beckman explained.
Beckman comes from a family where serving their country was not required but was definitely a popular choice. His father Bob served in the National Guard, and his uncle was killed in World War II. Beckman’s grandfather was a WWI veteran.
“I didn’t go in because it was expected in our family,” Beckman said. “I went in because I was a 16-year old with no direction, who had dropped out of high school and was working a full-time job.”
Top Sportsman racer Don O’Neal credits enlisting in the U.S. Army at 18 as one of his greatest life decisions.
“Veteran’s Day takes on a lot of different meanings to me; it’s more than just raising a glass to my brothers and sisters on my left and on my right,” O’Neal said. “I think about the people who I served with and who got lost. It takes on a different meaning for those people and their families and to those who are still serving who I helped recruit to join the Army and seeing how successful they are. So, Veterans Day means a lot more to me today than it did say at age 23. It’s a pretty important day for me.”
Former Pro Stock racer Morris Johnson Jr., who served in Vietnam, and was fought in the Tet Offensive, says his patriotism runs deep, and being able to serve his country is something he holds near and dear to his heart.
“I am the kind of guy who looks at the flag for the greatest country in the world and gets goosebumps,” Johnson said. “I get a tingle that I don’t know that everyone gets when they see the flag or the Star Spangled Banner is sung. When Lee Greenwood sang Proud To Be An American, it became almost as popular as the national anthem in my heart.”
We at CompetitionPlus.com are proud of our military members, both present and past. Today, thank a veteran for their service today.
VETERAN’S DAY TRIBUTE – Morris Johnson Jr. can’t help it. Every time he hears those lyrics from the famous Lee Greenwood song “Proud to be an American,” his eyes well up with tears. #DragRacingNews #nhra– CLICK LINK TO READ MORRIS JOHNSON JR.’S STORY – https://t.co/25dWwHhCIk pic.twitter.com/bwIQQbLQGs
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) November 11, 2019