Austin Dillon and fellow Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are helping to honor military spouses as part of the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola program, and he recently interviewed Shelia Brookins. Brookins is the 2018 Armed Forces Insurance National Guard Military Spouse of the Year, who describes herself as a “proud wife of a Kentucky National Guard (KYARNG) soldier.”
“We have been blessed to raise a squadron over the years, and we are all the better for them,” Brookins says.
Brookins told Dillon that she doesn’t think she has ever spent her husband’s June birthday or Father’s Day with him because National Guard training is in June every year. She also told him being a military spouse requires patience, faith and resilience.
“I’m not the most patient person, I’d have to learn that,” said Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. “But I know faith is key!”
Brookins believes that being in a family with other spouses is crucial for helping military families succeed and admires the USO’s Pathfinder program, which helps servicemembers and military spouses as they transition from deployments and service into new communities. The program also supports military spouses at any point in their military journey as they transition from one installation to the next.
“A lot of the National Guard soldiers joined during 9/11 and the only thing they know is war,” Brookins explained. “These individuals have a hard time adjusting to civilian living.”
On behalf of Shelia, NASCAR & Coca-Cola will donate to USO programming that supports and strengthens military spouses, like the USO PathfinderSM program.
The USO Pathfinder program helps servicemembers and military spouses plan for what’s next and connects them with the services, opportunities and resources that are the best fit for their successful transition to civilian life. USO staff members called Scouts guide families 12 months before their transition out of the military and up to 12 months after the servicemember’s date of separation. They work one-on-one with individuals, creating an action plan that connects veterans and families with services and opportunities.
Brookins says it means a lot to her that NASCAR and Coca-Cola are working with the USO to honor spouses and recognize the sacrifices they make and the work they do.
“It’s an awesome opportunity, just putting military spouses out there so other military spouse know they’re not alone. By NASCAR doing this it allows other spouses to know there are connections they can make,” Brookins said. “If they’re feeling lonely or feeling afraid, it’s OK because you’re not alone. …”
“It matters because it shows that they know that what they’re doing is not in vain. … For NASCAR, for Coca-Cola to show (families) how much you all appreciate us, not just our spouses, but what we do — it makes a big difference. It lets us know that somebody knows we’re trying to make a difference.”
Through the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers will honor a military spouse each week. Stay tuned as Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Bubba Wallace each interview a military spouse to help share their respective stories.