This Memorial Day, NASCAR driver Jeffrey Earnhardt honored fallen American soldiers by listing 617 names on his racecar. He honored one soldier and his family in particular by plastering his name on the driver’s side door.
“He was a huge NASCAR fan,” Stephanie Manis, a Gold Star mom, told Fox News. “And it’s just a real honor for someone to honor him.”
Manis and her two children, George (Gino) and Kayden, expressed their deep gratitude to Earnhardt for this very public memorial. She said she was “overwhelmed. I definitely knew I was going to cry.” Army Spc. George Manis served a tour in Iraq in 2006. He took his own life in 2011.
“Being deployed I think he dealt with things that I didn’t understand and learning that after his death,” the bereaved wife said. “I mean things were really, really rough for him. I just don’t think he could handle all the pressure and it was just too much.”
Earnhardt, for his part, expressed his deep gratitude for the men and women who give their lives to defend the United States of America. “I could never pay enough respect,” the racecar driver, grandson of the legendary Dale Earnhardt, told Fox News. “We owe them everything for what they have done.”
In addition to George Manis, whose name appears in large letters on the side of Earnhardt’s car, the driver commemorated 617 other fallen soldiers on the hood of his car.
Miranda Briggs told Fox News she saw her husband’s name, Army Spc. Garrett Briggs, on the hood. “It was a great feeling,” Briggs said. “It made me very proud of him.”
“My husband interned with NASCAR at Charlotte Speedway in 2009-2010 and worked at the Lowe’s pit area,” the bereaved wife said. “He went to the Charlotte NASCAR Institute and graduated with honors on the Dean’s list!” Briggs served in Afghanistan in 2013, but took his own life this past February, two weeks after the birth of his daughter Essex.
Earnhardt partnered with the veteran-owned clothing line Nine Line Apparel to sell “Remember the Fallen” t-shirts. The money raised from the sales goes to Angels of America’s Fallen, an organization that helps children deal with the grief of losing their veteran parents by paying for extracurricular activities until they turn 18. The organization specifically helps the children of servicemen and women who died during combat or from suicide due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Joe Lewis, CEO of Angels of America’s Fallen, listed a few activities the organization covers: “things like surfing, baking lessons, swimming lessons … Taekwondo and martial arts.”
On Sunday, Earnhardt and Nine Line CEO Tyler Merritt, himself a retired Army captain, presented a check for $15,000 to Angels of America’s Fallen during NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It’s really important that as a nation we help those children mitigate the risks they face of increased anxiety, depressions, substance abuse, dropping out of school and even suicide,” Lewis told Fox News.
Manis’ children have been a part of the Angels of America’s Fallen family since 2014 and Briggs is on the waiting list.
Watch the video below.