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NASCAR star drops by Quantico to visit wounded Marines, sign autographs for fans
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart talks with Marine Sgt. Rick Tack (left) and Gunnery Sgt. Nick Chaplain yesterday. Both were injured in Iraq.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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About 800 Marines wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are under the care of the Marines' wounded warrior program.
The Wounded Warrior Regiment is headquartered at Quantico. Its two battalion components are at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif. It has detachments at various medical centers around the world. Stewart visited wounded Marines at Camp Lejeune last year.
Critcher said four other wounded Marines at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were to be among those meeting Stewart, but yesterday morning's storms made that unfeasible.
Four others were not there for a different reason: They were turkey hunting somewhere on base.
Critcher smiled. "Well, if you haven't hunted all year and you have a chance to
Stewart, himself a turkey hunter, understood.
"We've got wounded warriors turkey hunting on our [Indiana] property on Fridays and Saturdays. It's our way of saying thanks."
Stewart wrapped up his swing by Quantico at the base's Servmart customer appreciation day at the nearby Barnett parade field where Office Depot had a tractor-trailer gift shop, free food, Stewart's race car and a stock car simulator.
Among about 200 people queued up for autographs were diehard Stewart fans Cynthia Lewis of Fredericksburg and Melissa Corradetti of Alexandria, who work on base.
Lewis had her hands full: She got Stewart to sign a rear deck panel of a car he drove at the Charlotte race last May. She got the panel from a friend who bought it at a silent auction.
Also on hand were Kim Beaudine of Stafford, and sons Tyler and Ethan.
Tyler was on a mission, too: "I want to meet Tony Stewart and get an autograph for my dad."
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Tony Stewart is one of NASCAR's premier drivers. He currently stands third in the Sprint Cup Series point standings.
A native of Columbus, Ind., where he still lives, Stewart drives the No. 14 Office Depot-Mobil 1 Chevrolet.
Stewart is among the field tomorrow night at Richmond International Raceway.
He had this to say about the race: "Richmond is where I got my first win, so it's my favorite track."
Though he hasn't done well there in the last couple years, "It's always been a special place. It's only three-quarters of a mile and it's always been a driver's track."
The Marine Corps' Wounded Warrior Regiment provides family support, clinical services staff to help with care coordination, chaplains, recovery care coordinators, job transition assistance, liaisons with the Department of Veterans Affairs and 23 support offices around the country and overseas.
Two wounded warrior battalions, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif., have medical detachments, including at Landstuhl (Germany) Regional Medical Canter; the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.; Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington; Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii; naval hospitals in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, California and Japan; Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas; Veterans Administration polytrauma centers in Minnesota, Florida and California; and Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
Marines and their families can contact the Sergeant Merlin German Wounded Warrior Call Center any time, toll-free, at 877/487-6299.