November marks Military Appreciation Month at the National Corvette Museum – where those who served, plus their immediate family receive complimentary Museum admission. For the 8th straight year the Museum has also hosted “Vets ‘n Vettes” presented by Mobil 1 – an event celebrating two icons of America – our veterans of the armed forces and the Corvette. The event was held November 5-7, 2015 and the first day of festivities was dedicated to wounded warriors who were bussed in from Fort Knox and Fort Campbell.
“They have returned from service with physical or mental wounds that happened while they were doing their service,” said Wendell Strode, Museum Executive Director. “These events and activities are our small way to show appreciation to our servicemen and women.”
The day kicked-off at the NCM Motorsports Park, a new track facility owned by the Museum that opened Labor Day weekend 2014. Approximately 100 volunteers (many of whom were also veterans) gave rides to the wounded warriors and veterans in their Corvettes, and the veterans could take as many rides as they liked, swapping cars after each ride to try out different generations and models of Corvette.
“The best thing ever is to see the look on their [wounded warriors’] faces when they get their Corvette ride,” said Katie Frassinelli, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Museum and Motorsports Park. “We host them for Corvette Plant and Museum tours, a nice sit-down lunch with speakers. We also provided them with a goodie bag from Mobil 1 and a gift card to the Corvette Store.”
This year’s luncheon welcomed special guest speaker Gerald York, grandson of Alvin York, one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I.
“It’s a real highlight to my year being able to host our veterans from various wars and conflicts, and being able to invite wounded warriors and having Corvette enthusiasts and owners who drive in from various places to be here,” Strode said. “It’s a joy driving around the Motorsports Park, and a really special feeling for me, personally, to just be able to be with them and honor them this way.”
Strode has eight brothers, and all but one of them served in the military. He says they were raised to always respect people who served.
“My dad never passed up a serviceman who was hitchhiking,” he said. “He would always pick them up and most of the time take them many miles out of his way so they could spend time with their families. We learned not to take for granted freedoms that we have, and be prepared to sacrifice so that our way of life could continue for many years to come.”
Attendance at this years’ event reached record numbers with over 245 area veterans and wounded warriors coming to Thursday’s complimentary luncheon, and a total of 450 guests there to celebrate. “At one point during the luncheon we asked everyone who has served to please stand,” said Karen Renfrow, Museum Events Manager. “I think upwards of 90% of the room stood. It was such a great feeling. We are excited to see the participation grow.”
If you didn’t get the opportunity to participate in this year’s event, we hope you will mark your calendars for November 3-5, 2016 and make plans to join us then!
Photos courtesy of Calvin Cruce