There are many holidays on the calendar, but none quite like Memorial Day.
It’s an important one for the sport of automobile racing, beginning with a Formula One race in Monaco on Sunday morning followed by the Indianapolis 500 and concluding with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It’s also about cemeteries across the globe, with rows of white crosses, each representing a service member who paid the ultimate price for his or her fellow Americans.
For the past five years, the NASCAR community and Charlotte Motor Speedway have come up with an appropriate mix of the solemn and the spectacular.
As part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance, each car in the field carries on its windshield the name of a fallen service member.
In most cases, race teams host family members or friends of the deceased hero. The track also hosts thousands of active-duty service members and their families, as well as veterans. Goodyear, the official tire supplier for the series, replaces its customary “Eagle” logo with “Honor and Remember” for the 600 weekend.
Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Knauf Insulation Ford Mustang will honor the late U.S. Army Specialist David E. Hickman, 23, of Greensboro, N.C.
He died Nov. 14, 2011, while serving during Operation New Dawn in Baghdad, Iraq.
He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and died from injuries incurred when his armored truck was hit by a roadside bomb.
He was the 4,474th member of the U.S. military to die in the Iraq war, according to the Pentagon.
Before joining the Army, Hickman was a team captain and all-conference linebacker for Northeast Guilford High School.
The son of a U.S. Air Force veteran, Hickman was into fitness, held a Black Belt in Taekwondo, and hoped to one day join the Special Forces, according to a profile on the Honor and Remember website.
“He always seemed like Superman,” Spec. Morgan Corbett, who met Hickman in basic training and became one of his closest friends, said in an article on Honor and Remember. “Everyone looked up to him.”
Eddie Wood said his race team considers it an honor to carry Hickman’s name on the No. 21 Mustang and to host members of his family on Sunday.
“The sport has done a great thing with the 600 Miles of Remembrance program,” Wood said. “It’s what Memorial Day is all about.
“It’s important to pause and remember the people who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us can enjoy the freedoms we have. I never got to meet David Hickman, but I’m glad we will have the opportunity to thank his family members for his sacrifice for us all.”
Wood has known some of the fallen service members his team has recognized through the 600 Miles of Remembrance program.
Last year, the team honored the late U.S. Army First Lt. Leevi Barnard, who like the Wood family was from Patrick County, Va.
In 2015 they honored the late Marine Cpl. Jonathan Bowling, another hometown soldier who also was a friend of the Wood family and a great nephew of Chris Williams, who was an original race team partner with the late Glen Wood.
“This program means a lot to us,” Wood said. “Our race team is going to do its best to put on a performance that properly honors Specialist Hickman.”
Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 is scheduled for Thursday at 7:05 p.m, and the race is set to start just after 6 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.