News & Multimedia

Special Veterans Day Note from IMS President Doug Boles

As president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I am blessed to experience a lot of extremely special moments. However, one of the most special moments I have had happened just before the 100th running of the Indy 500 and I wanted to share it today - Veterans Day. 

As most of you know, Indianapolis 500 race day, especially pre-race, is as much about celebrating the men and women who have served or are serving our country as it is celebrating the 33 men and women about to race for the chance to drink a bottle of milk in victory lane. It is Memorial Day weekend after all. 

This year we honored Hoosier survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which had happened 75 years ago. Long before most, but not all, of this year's race attendees were even born. 

Highest on my list of things I wanted to do on Race Day this year was visit with these heroes and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of us gathered to watch the 100th running of the 500 say "Thanks" to them for their service and sacrifice. 

Walking into the green room under the pagoda I was immediately overcome with emotion when I saw these America heroes waiting to be honored by our sold-out crowd. Seeing these men and their family members brought an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and I spent time thanking and talking to each one of these men. These are true heroes. Members of the rightfully named "Greatest Generation."  Without them, our country might not be free today to argue and debate the many polarizing issues that dominated our current-day dialogue, especially these past few months. 

As I was leaving to go trackside for pre-race, I walked and thanked each veteran one more time for being part of pre-race and again for their service. As I got to the final veteran, he looked me in the eyes and he said in his slow 95 year old voice, "I have a question."

I had no idea what the question was to be and was worried that his question might be something I couldn't answer or a problem I couldn't fix. And for his sacrifices this hero deserved an answer to whatever he was about to ask!

"I'd like a hat," he said. "Can you get me a 500 hat?"

As he was asking, his granddaughter responded. 

"Grandpa, you have a hat," she said. "You're wearing it!" 

Without interrupting his eye-contact with me this American hero said, "I know that. I would like another one. It is the 100th 500 you know."

A hat. His question was - can he have a hat? I was relieved. I could help here!

"Yes sir. You can have another hat."

I called our merchandise lead and asked for another round of hats to be delivered to each of the heroes in the Green Room immediately. 

It is an amazing race - The Indianapolis 500 - because of its history and tradition. But, without men like these, those who protect our freedom while we're worrying about pit stops, infield parking, standing in line at gates, etc., we can't continue to write that history. 

Happy Veterans Day to all Veterans. On behalf of IMS fans everywhere, thank you for your service.

Doug Boles and Senator Donnelly with Pearl Harbor Survivors
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