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USO, Coca-Cola to Honor Troops at Coca-Cola 600

Friday, May 24, 2013

By Eric Brandner 

It will be a reunion, an honor and a celebration Sunday afternoon when Aaron Causey strides to the platform and takes the microphone.

More than a year and a half after the Army sergeant first class lost his legs in a blast in Afghanistan, he’ll get to say the most famous words in racing. It’s one of the many camera-worthy moments the USO and partner Coca-Cola are anticipating at this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C.

It will be a huge weekend for the Causey family. Not only was Aaron selected to represent the USO as the race’s grand marshal, but he’ll be spending the weekend surrounded by family, including his brother – Alabama National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Causey – who just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.

“[Matthew] just had his homecoming this past weekend,” said Kat Causey, Aaron’s wife. “I immediately thought that it would be very special for them to experience this together.”

The Causey brothers and their wives – Kat and Alison – will be joined by Kat’s parents, Steve and Theresa Marshall, for the weekend festivities. They’ll attend multiple events, including a dinner with NASCAR drivers and a concert with country music star Trace Adkins.

Representatives from Coca-Cola said dedicating the Memorial Day weekend to the military – and highlighting their partnership with the USO – was a natural fit.

"At Coke, we've always supported the military through the USO," said Erika Von Heiland Strader, Director-Community Marketing for Coca-Cola North America. "That’s why we make sure the USO is an integral part of the Coke 600.”

Coca-Cola has been a USO partner since 1941, when the soft drink giant committed to providing every man and woman in uniform with a bottle of Coke for a nickel during World War II. Today, donated Coca-Cola brand beverages are served to U.S. troops for free at USO centers around the world.

Sunday will mark the third straight year the USO has been the grand marshal of the Coca-Cola 600. In 2011, the USO chose Marine Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson to give the starting command. The trio of Navy Rear Adm. (Ret.) Frank Thorp, Army Col. Greg Gadson and actress Brooklyn Decker had the honor last year.

“Through the years, the Coca-Cola Company and the Charlotte Motor Speedway have really wanted to focus on and celebrate with the nation what this weekend means to us as a free country, [including] the men and women who have come before us as well as the ones who are currently on active duty to protect the freedoms that we enjoy,” said Coca-Cola Director-Motorsports Marketing Ben Reiling.

Reiling said more than 10,000 troops will be involved in the race weekend.

USO of North Carolina President John Falkenbury said their centers are distributing more than 4,000 race tickets to troops and family members while also arranging for 1,500 troops and families to have VIP access to Adkins’ concert. USO of North Carolina is also coordinating a pre-race celebration for troops and families with Papa Johns at the zMAX Dragway, which is part of the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex. That event culminates with busses of troops and families taking a pre-race lap around the track.

* Learn more about the Causey family with the video below: 

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* Shop USO Wishbook to donate funds that help more troops and families enjoy the support, programs and services that the USO offers worldwide.    

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