Tribute to America's veterans to expand in Indy 500 pre-race
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will continue its longstanding tradition of honoring America's military veterans during the pre-race ceremonies for the Indianapolis 500 with an expanded variety of tributes, including special recognition of a unique group of American heroes and a dramatic flyover.
Pre-race ceremonies for the Indianapolis 500 are scheduled to start at noon (ET) Sunday, May 24, with "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" starting at 1 p.m.
Among the veterans of America's armed forces to be honored will be nine members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II to become America's first African-American military airmen. They trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Ala., and compiled an exemplary record in combat service despite numerous acts of bigotry and racism committed against them at home and overseas.
From 1941-46, 994 African-American pilots trained for combat at the Tuskegee Army Air Field. Hundreds more trained at other bases to serve as navigators, bombardiers and gunnery crews during the worldwide war effort.
Members of the Tuskegee Airmen who will be on hand to be honored on Race Day: Lt. Col. James H. Harvey III, Master Sgt. Buford Johnson, Master Sgt. James A. Sheppard, Technical Sgt. George Watson Sr., Lt. Colonel Spann Watson, Second Lt. William M. "Bill" Wheeler, Sgt. Arthur Carter, 1st Sgt. Harry Leavell and Lt. Quentin Smith. Faye McDaniel will represent her late husband, Lt. Col. Armour McDaniel, during the ceremonies.
Another highlight of pre-race ceremonies will be a special flyover of two vintage B-25 Mitchell bombers to honor Disabled American Veterans, the non-profit organization dedicated to helping wounded veterans. The B-25s, named Special Delivery and Take Off Time, are fully restored, World War II-era aircraft. These warbirds will twice pass over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the national anthem before the beginning of the race.
A new military tribute also has been added to pre-race ceremonies, a Three-Volley Salute. A 10-member firing detail from the Indiana National Guard will execute the military Three-Volley Salute. The members of the Indiana National Guard participating in the Three-Volley Salute are MSG Tony Williams, SGT James Byers, SSG Bruce Bennett, SSG Gary Hatcher, SSG Jerry James and SPC Johnny Everett (Indianapolis), SGT James Vester (Avon), SFC Curtis Pigg (Veedersburg), SGT Charles Henry (Madison) and SPC Craig Cambron (Carmel).
Other patriotic elements paying tribute to America's military during pre-race ceremonies include:
.Parade laps honoring 35 American Wounded Warriors.
."America the Beautiful" performed by Miss America 2009 Katie Stam, from Indiana
.Speech by U.S. Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, Chief, National Guard Bureau.
."God Bless America" performed by Florence Henderson
."Star Spangled Banner" performed by Major Lisa Kopczynski, Indiana National Guard
."Taps," performed by a single bugler, Sgt. Joseph Young, National Guard