Coca-Cola 600 Pit Note #13
Local Wounded Soldier to Sing National Anthem for Coca-Cola 600 – Charlotte-area native and wounded war veteran Cpl. John Hyland will sing the national anthem on Sunday evening prior to the Coca-Cola 600. Hyland, who lost a leg in service to his country, is an opera singer who attended the North Carolina School for the Arts in Winston-Salem prior to joining the service. Hyland also has strong ties to Charlotte Motor Speedway and has been a NASCAR fan for many years.
“The first experience I remember was working here,” said Hyland. “I took a temp job when I was about 17 years old and I worked one of the suites. I was a race fan – how can you not be growing up here in Charlotte? Every chance I got, I would come down to the fence. I didn’t have to stand there in the suite all the time. There was one time when they were practicing, and Dale Earnhardt Sr. spun out and came to rest right at the wall where I was standing. I was a wide-eyed, open-mouthed kid then. He got out of the car and was kind of angry and walked around kicking the tire, kicking the car, you know. He sees me standing there and gets a smile on his face. He walks over and says ‘Hey kid, how you doing?’ What seemed like a lifetime to me was probably only a few seconds until the safety crews got there and he came up and we shook hands through the fence. He said hello and we chatted. Ever since that day, I was an absolute NASCAR fan and, of course, a Dale Earnhardt fan.”
Hyland also noted that his experience with the racing community goes beyond being a fan.
“When I think about this weekend, for me it’s all about honoring the fallen soldiers, the wounded soldiers, and the soldiers – the guys and gals over there now – for Memorial Day weekend,” said Hyland. “But for me, it’s also about honoring my sport, NASCAR. I think it’s the only sport in the world that takes so much time with the fans. When I was injured and an inpatient, Rick Hendrick read a piece on me in ‘The Charlotte Observer.’ One of the things my wife had said was, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get my husband home for Christmas.’ So, Mr. Hendrick calls my mother up and tells her, ‘Tell your son not to worry. He’s going to get home for Christmas.’ Two weeks later, when they discharged me from the hospital – I didn’t know anything about it – there was this Honda Odessey van with a bow on top of it with this hydraulic ramp on it. The van also had some gifts in it for my kids. Not only was he thinking about me, but he was thinking about my family. They do this stuff and do it with no attention. He says, ‘I’m not the story here, John; you are.’ And that is just one example of how incredible this sport is. There is a reason I am a NASCAR fan.”
Hyland has sung all his life, starting in high school in Charlotte. He hopes to keep representing his country and one day maybe even work in NASCAR. He and his family currently reside in San Antonio, Texas. He is also featured in a new book titled “The Weekend Starts on Wednesday.”
Hyland says he will be incredibly proud when he walks across the stage to sing on Sunday.
“The greatest feeling in the world is going to be when I walk on that stage on my own two feet, so to speak,” said Hyland. “One is not mine, but it’s mine. I’m going to walk up there and sing the national anthem and represent not just my country and my military – the wounded soldiers and fallen soldiers – but represent my sport, to kind of give back to what I think is the greatest sport in the world and my home.”
Hyland also sang at The Speedway Club at the Medal of Honor recipients dinner.