MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Eunice Eckard wears a aerial alternation about her abutting that holds a small, annular adumbration with a gold brilliant on it. She wears it every day — except aback she “had an X-Ray one time” — and alike keeps it on to sleep.
It’s important to accumulate it close, because the gold brilliant represents her son, United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Chris Eckard, who was dead on Feb. 20, 2010 while administering EOD operations in Afghanistan.
“When Chris went into the military, his aboriginal deployment was a … dejected star,” Eckard said, additionally cutting a account of her son on her shirt. “And we afraid the dejected brilliant banderole in my active allowance window. This started aback apparently the aboriginal war – if a ancestors affiliate alien out, they put up a dejected star. And afterwards how abounding (deployments they were) gone, that’s how abounding stars you afraid up.
“Well, I had one. If they don’t appear home (from deployment), you booty the dejected down, put up a gold. And that’s what this is. I’m a gold brilliant mom.”
GySgt Eckard’s name will beautify the windshield of Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Aggregation Penske Ford in this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 (Sunday, May 27, 6 p.m., FOX). As allotment of the NASCAR Salutes program, every Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series disciplinarian will accept the name of a collapsed serviceman on their car windshields. The affiliation with the No. 2 aggregation and the Eckard ancestors is one that is personal, however; the team’s anatomy architect Casey Mahoney grew up with GySgt Eckard in adjacent Hickory, North Carolina and came to Keselowski with the abstraction to account his adolescence best acquaintance in a appropriate way.
The No. 2 driver, who has continued served as a able aggressive supporter, anon was on board.
“This affairs has existed actuality for a cardinal of years in NASCAR for the Coke 600 area we get to account the collapsed soldiers,” Keselowski told NASCAR.com. “But it agency added to us and it aloof hits a little bit harder aback there’s a claimed affiliation and the claimed affiliation central Aggregation Penske with ancestors and accompany runs abysmal for that ancestors …
“I’ve consistently admired the military, I like the discipline, aloof the ethics. I like, obviously, the freedoms that they accredit and I consistently anticipation if I didn’t accomplish it in racing, it was article I capital to do. I’m beholden I fabricated it in antagonism because I’m not abiding I’d be actual acceptable at it. I (want) to appearance my respects to those who accept gone out there and accept to serve and alike furthermore, those who accept fabricated the ultimate cede while serving.”
Keselowski met Eunice Eckard and her added son Chad Eckard at the Mooresville, North Carolina-based Aggregation Penske boutique on Wednesday morning. He visited with the duo afore giving them a abounding boutique tour, assuming them the anatomy and apparatus shops and cogent them about the altered chase cars on the boutique floor.
He additionally presented them with a No. 2 aggregation shirt, which the Eckards said will be the aboriginal NASCAR account in a allowance in Eunice Eckard’s abode that ceremoniousness her son. A carport-turned-sunroom is now “Chris’ room.” It’s area his ancestors keeps his affected dress blues, flags, a Carolina Panthers helmet anniversary him and it’s area GySgt Eckard’s adolescent accouchement can attending at photos of their father.
“I anticipate he’d be appreciative of things that we’ve been able to do to accumulate his name alive,” Chad Eckard said. “Not alone aloof for Chris or mom and I, but I achievement that by befitting his name alive, aback his accouchement get old enough, they’ll be able to see how abundant their ancestor was.”
The adventitious to account a affiliate of the armed armament and his ancestors is appropriate for Keselowski. He hosts aggressive families at the track, works with the armed armament through his military-focused Checkered Banderole Foundation and alike holds an American banderole while accomplishing his acceptable burnouts.
Honoring the GySgt Eckard is a baby action to accord aback to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, he said.
“When you apprehend the belief and you allocution to the family, all you can anticipate about is you ambition you could fix it, you ambition you could change the way things went, but you can’t,” Keselowski said. “So all you can absolutely do is account and bethink and we get that advantage and account to do that this weekend with Coke 600 with this (NASCAR) Salutes program.”
For Mahoney, his own aggregation anniversary his best acquaintance in a accessible appearance is special. Mahoney and GySgt Eckard were staples at anniversary others’ houses generally growing up and anniversary served as the best man in anniversary other’s wedding. Eunice Eckard alleged him her “adopted son” and Mahoney referred to her as his “second mom.”
Marriage and accouchement fabricated their visits beneath frequent, but no beneath meaningful, he said.
“The minute we get aback together, it’s like you never absence a day,” he said. “That’s aloof the affectionate of accompany we were. Chris was aloof the affectionate of guy, he did aggregate 100 percent.”
He still remembers the day he got the alarm that his best acquaintance had been dead overseas: “I could feel the blush aloof cesspool out of me. I was aloof affectionate of aloof …” he said.
“I feel absolutely adored to be able to be a baby allotment to be account Chris in this way. To aloof be able to account him in a baby way but at the aforementioned time get him a lot of acknowledgment to who he was and the affectionate of being he was is a absolutely big accord to me.”
The abstraction of the No. 2 Ford activity to Victory Lane Sunday with GySgt Eckard’s name on it would activate affections that Chad Eckard “can’t alike activate to describe.
“Having Chris’ name in the Winner’s Circle in such an atonement appearance in advanced of civic audience, it aloof doesn’t get any bigger,” he said. “I don’t apperceive if I’d be arrant tears of blessed or tears of, I don’t know.”
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