NASCAR racer Jeffrey Earnhardt raises thousands for children of fallen veterans, surprises families
The Nascar driver also partnered with Nine Line Apparel to support children of service members who lost their lives during combat or took their own lives from PTSD.
This memorial day weekend, NASCAR star Jeffrey Earnhardt honored fallen U.S. soldiers in a very special way. “I don’t think I have ever had to hold back tears so hard in my life,” Earnhardt told Fox News on Saturday.
The ace driver surprised a Gold Star mother, Stephanie Manis, and her two kids, Kayden and George, with her late husband's name proudly etched on the driver's door of his beastly vehicle.
“Overwhelmed. I definitely knew I was going to cry,” Manis told Fox News. “There’s just no words for it. I mean he was a huge NASCAR fan and it’s just a real honor for someone to honor him and other soldiers. But it was overwhelming. There’s really no words.”
Back in 2006, U.S. Army Specialist George Manis served his country on a tour in Iraq. Tragically, he committed suicide in 2011.
“Being deployed I think he dealt with things that I didn’t understand and learning that after his death,” Manis 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.”
The tribute to the late soldier is the least he could do to for the army, says the grandson of the illustrious Dale Earnhardt. For what our fearless service members put on the line, this is the professional driver's way of saying "Thank you."
“I could never pay enough respect,” Earnhardt told Fox News. “We owe them everything for what they have done. So, it’s very touching. It’s very eye-opening and it really hits home.”
Manis' name wasn't the only one inscribed on the hood of Earnhardt's car. The NASCAR racer engraved the names of 617 men and women in uniform who gave up their lives for the nation on the one thing he loves the most - his vehicle.
The second surprise on Memorial Day was for Miranda Briggs, who choked when she saw her late husband U.S. Army Specialist Garrett Briggs' name on the hood of Earnhardt's mean machine.
“It was a great feeling! It made me very proud of him,” Briggs said.
Miranda went on to say that not only did her husband absolutely adore the sport, he also shared a brief history with NASCAR. “My husband interned with NASCAR at Charlotte Speedway in 2009-2010 and worked at the Lowe's pit area,” Miranda said. “He went to the Charlotte NASCAR Institute and graduated with honors on the Dean's list!”
Two weeks after the Briggs' welcomed their daughter Essex, the army veteran took his own life February this year, said Miranda. Briggs served a rotation in Afghanistan back in 2013.
Earnhardt believes there's nothing like too much when it comes to paying respects for the selflessness of a soldier. He has also partnered with Nine Line Apparel - a veteran-owned clothing line - to promote the brand's "Remember the Fallen" tees.
Miranda informed that she and her late husband were both proud members of Nine Line. The funds raised from the sale of these T-shirts directly goes into an organization called "Angels of America's Fallen", which supports children of service members who lost their lives during combat or took their own lives from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The charity supports children dealing with the grief of losing parents by funding their extracurricular activities until they turn adults.
“...we pay for the activities that already exists in their community that they pick as their personal outlet. So we have done things like surfing, baking lessons, swimming lessons... Taekwondo and martial arts,” Joe Lewis, CEO of Angels of America’s Fallen, told Fox News. “As long as it’s a fun event and it has a coach or instructor component to it, we are going to find a way to say yes.”
During NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, Earnhardt accompanied Tyler Merritt, the CEO of Nine Line at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in presenting a cheque for $15,000 made out to Angels of America’s Fallen.
“It brings awareness to the fact that there are thousands of children of our fallen that are out there trying to go through their childhood, the most crucial, formattable years without the support or guidance of their parent,” Lewis said. “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.”
While Briggs is still on the waiting list of Angels of America's Fallen, Manis' children have been a part of their family since 2014. Miranda thinks the program would be conducive to the personal growth of her daughter Essex.
“It’s going to give her an opportunity to have an outlet for her grief,” Miranda said. “Between sports, athletics, art or music whatever she chooses to do they are going to be able to financially help her do those things.”