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Patriotic Article
Noble Efforts

By USMC LCpl. Brittany J. Kohler

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER (MCN - 8/5/2010) — Up and about at the crack of dawn, several New River Marines climbed onto a charter bus at the beginning of a long fun-filled day of exploring North Carolina Saturday, July 24.
Roughly 100 Marines took advantage of a great opportunity presented by the USO of North Carolina. Among many invitations to events throughout the year, the USO of North Carolina gave Marines the opportunity to get out of the Jacksonville area and experience a different part of North Carolina that many have never seen before.

The USO of North Carolina is a non-profit charitable organization that serves and supports America's military and their families. They are constantly coming up with new ideas to help or entertain service members for little or no cost.

The all-day event included Marines from New River Air Station, Camp Lejeune, and Camp Johnson and it
Marines from the Jacksonville area pose in front of a racecar promoting United States service members during a tour of NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip’s museum, Raceworld USA, July 24, 2010.
Marines from the Jacksonville area pose in front of a racecar promoting United States service members during a tour of NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip's museum, Raceworld USA, July 24, 2010.
did not cost them a dime. It consisted of a tour of NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip's Race Shop, a two hour cruise around Lake Norman, sand volleyball and billiards.
"We try to do whatever we can for the troops and hope they just have a good time," said Barbara Hutchens, USO Charlotte Center Assistant Director. "We are constantly giving away free concert tickets and sports tickets to our service members and organizing events and activities for them to get out and have fun."

First stop, Cornelius, N.C., home of the Michael Waltrip Racing Museum, Raceworld USA.

For those who don't know, Michael Waltrip is a professional race car driver and co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing. Waltrip is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500 and drives the number 51 NAPA Toyota Camry in the Sprint Cup Series on a part-time basis.

The museum, highlighting other drivers as well, was quite unique. It was a closed-down movie theater before it was renovated. In May of 2007, the theatre opened up with a whole new face and name, Raceworld USA. It is the race shop and center of operations for Michael Waltrip Racing. It is a functioning NASCAR race shop that allows fans to tour the facility and experience what it takes to build and run a championship racing team.

Upon arrival, the Marines were introduced to the tour guide team and escorted into a small theatre room, restored from the original theatre, and watched a short film about the museum, Michael Waltrip himself, and all the hard work involved leading up to the green flag.

After the film, the large group of Marines were broken up into smaller groups and spread out across the facility. Each room which was once a theatre, is dedicated to a particular step in the building process to get the car to its tip-top condition and ready to race on the track. From gears and transmission to shocks and all the way down to the paint and labels, it is all on show for the visitors.

"The tour of Michael Waltrip's garage was awesome, I am pretty big into NASCAR," said Cpl. Cayla N. Bowman, administrative clerk with Marine Heavy Helicopter Training Squadron 302. "Michael Waltrip is my mom's favorite driver, so it was really cool for me to get to experience it all at the museum and see how everything works."

The next stop was Lake Norman for a two-hour cruise provided by Championship Yacht Charters owner Cliff Champion and the USO of North Carolina. Once aboard the ship, the Marines were introduced to the captain as he expressed his gratitude to the Marines and sent them off to feast on hamburgers and hotdogs.

After eating, the Marines enjoyed the relaxing boat ride and listened to live music. On board was country music artist Megan McGovern, who performed for the Marines and allowed time after her performance to sign autographs and express her appreciation to the armed forces.

"When I heard I was going to be on a cruise ship with a bunch of Marines, I didn't know what to expect," said McGovern. "But I definitely had a great time with all of them, it was great."

McGovern felt that she needed to do an outstanding job performing for the troops knowing that they do an outstanding job protecting our country.

"This day wasn't anything about me, it was all about you guys," said McGovern, addressing the Marines on board. "I'm only here to show my appreciation to you; I love everyone on this boat for what they do."

After a short time, everyone loaded back on the bus and prepared for the trip back to Jacksonville. On the ride home, it seemed everyone was more alive and full of excitement and energy. They talked about their favorite parts of the trip and how they plan on going back sometime. Several Marines connected with others, sang songs, joked around and formed friendships.

"I am the Single Marine Program representative for my squadron and if anything like this catches my eye again I am definitely going to start taking advantage of it," said Bowman. "It was nice to get out of Jacksonville and just relax on the boat and cruise, and it was all free!"

Trips such as this come up often and there are usually plenty of slots for Marines of all ranks, single or married. So, keep an eye open for the upcoming events in the near future. For those not originally from North Carolina, the trips are a great way to see the state and learn about local culture.

Article and photo by LCpl. Brittany J. Kohler
Marine Corps Air Station New River
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Marine Corps News

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