Special Command – On a weekend when we honor our fallen heroes, it seems only fitting that one of our country’s bravest survivors will give the command to start engines for today’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson is the first service member to return to the battlefield after losing a leg in combat. He was struck in the left knee by a sniper in 2006 in Iraq. He returned to the United States and was fitted with a prosthetic leg, relearning how to walk, run, ski and swim. Gibson was offered a return deployment to Iraq and eagerly accepted.

Gibson, who now works at the Pentagon, will deliver the most famous words in racing with John Falkenbury, president of the North Carolina chapter of the United Service Organizations (USO).

“I’m from Oklahoma, so I’ve seen some dirt cars go in circles,” Gibson said. “I’m probably not the biggest NASCAR fan, but I am a NASCAR fan. And trust me, I’ve got about 10,000 Marines behind me who want about 10,000 signatures.”

Gibson’s parents accompanied him on the trip and will also be with him during pre-race festivities.

“My father has not been on a plane in over a decade, not even to my bedside when I was injured, and that was hard for him because I’m an only child,” Gibson said of his father, a disabled Vietnam War veteran celebrating his 71st birthday today. “But when this came up, he said, ‘I will be there, even if they have to roll me off on a gurney.’

“It’s an amazing day for all Marines and all service members. What an opportunity.”

Continuing the patriotic theme of the pre-race festivities day, service men and women from around the world will introduce the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600 via prerecorded messages on the speedway’s giant HDTV.

Finally, more than 5,600 active U.S. military members and their families will be treated to the race tonight thanks to the generosity of fans and corporate sponsors. Through the speedway’s “Let the Troops Race” program, fans and companies paid $20 per ticket to send a military member to NASCAR's most challenging race.

Rousing Start – The 82nd Airborne U.S Army All American Chorus from Ft. Bragg, N.C., provided a minute of pre-race entertainment in the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Center Sunday morning, singing a rousing and patriotic version of “The All-American Soldier.” The Chorus will Perform “The Armed Forces Medley” during pre-race festivities for the Coca-Cola 600.