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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (USO Photo by Michael Clifton)
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NASCAR Racer Stenhouse Admires Troops' Dedication, Perseverance

Thursday, December 20, 2012

By Christian Pelusi 

For USO entertainers like NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., hordes of welcoming troops are the norm. But for the stop at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, seeing fewer faces was an uplifting moment.

“Luckily at the time there wasn’t a lot of people there, which is always a good thing,” Stenhouse said, reflecting on the tour that he and Joey Logano took this month to lift the spirits of troops deployed to Germany and the Middle East.  “They were telling me anytime it’s calm there, that’s the best way to have it. It means things are going good.”

The wounded, ill and injured servicemen and women Stenhouse did get to speak with left the champion driver with great admiration for their mettle and attitude.

“Talking with some of the troops, it’s pretty cool to see the dedication that they have," he said. "They get hurt, they go to the hospital and the first thing they want is to get back with their troops and get back to work. I think that says a lot about who they are and what they stand for. Talking with kids that are 19, leaving home and going out and doing this … thinking back, I don’t know if I could do that or not. I definitely have a lot of respect for them and definitely a lot more since I was able to go over there.”

As for the Middle East, Stenhouse got to see first-hand the reach and popularity of NASCAR.

“A great time,” he said. “[The Middle East] was a lot different than I imagined. Getting to the base [in Kuwait] and seeing the troops was a very neat experience. To see how excited they were and to learn that they still follow all of our races while they’re over there and learning more about what they do each and every day so that I was more educated ... It was a very neat experience.”

Part of that neat experience was visiting Kuwait for the first time. Stenhouse was surprised at the differences in U.S. posts. Some were urban, as in Kuwait City, while others located far into the desert.

“It definitely made you appreciate being home,” he said, laughing.

And seeing how remote the locations can be for deployed servicemen and women showed Stenhouse how important the USO and the services and comforts are.

“It was awesome to see what the USO does,” he said. “Providing [troops] places to call back home for free [with Operation Phone Home], use the computers, have movies playing, get to hang out in a family-type environment like what they would have at their house and I think that was a huge help.

“We were signing a lot of autographs and people were just talking about how much they appreciated what the USO has done for them and making them feel as much at home as they can.”

Stenhouse also mentioned how well-received the USO’s United Through Reading’s Military Program is by the troops.

“The troops can record themselves reading a book to their kids and the USO sends it home," he said. "I thought that was a really neat thing that they came up with and they seem to really appreciate what the USO is doing for them.”

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Photo caption: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., center, and Joey Logano, left, examine the engine of a military vehicle with U.S. Army Sgt. Seth Shuman, 30, from Bloomsburg, Pa., on Dec. 8. (USO Photo by Michael Clifton) 

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