If you have been to any of the major events at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma this year, you have probably noticed the military fly-bys, honor guards, cannon salutes, and the recognition of a hometown hero during pre-race ceremonies. 

All that is a part of the Sonoma Salutes Our Troops program that has been going on at the track during the 2010 racing season.

At the upcoming IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma racing weekend Aug. 20-22, the track, in conjunction with the Vintage Valley Blue Star Moms and the IndyCar Series, will honor all branches of the military over the racing weekend and before the big Sunday race, which is Military Appreciation Day at the track.

“We are pleased that we can put the troops front-and-center at Infineon Raceway this season,” said John Cardinale, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for Infineon Raceway. “It has been a great program and I hope we have been able to bring some attention to the incredible job the troops are doing for us, both in this country and abroad.”

Infineon Raceway and Blue Star Moms formed a partnership for 2010 to bring awareness about our troops who are serving overseas to the fans who come to the race track. Blue Star Moms is a support and service group covering Napa, Solano and Yolo counties. They are moms, dads, family and friends of troops who are currently serving or have served in the Armed Forces of the U.S.

Blue Star Moms visit the wounded and send care packages to troops serving overseas. They also participate in Gold Star Tributes and Remembrances for families who have lost a loved one.

During the IndyCar Series race weekend, Blue Star Moms will be hosting the Sonoma Salutes Our Troops booth at the track. You can make monetary donations to support the mailing project, buy phone cards for the troops, or donate badly needed supplies.

Kathy Simpson, president of the Vintage Valley Blue Star Moms, talked about her experience in the booth at the race track and about the program itself.

“Infineon asked us to be a part of the Sonoma Salutes Our Troops program by hosting the booth,” she said. “I became a member of Blue Star Moms when I was trying to support my son and his company. My son didn’t need much, but as a helicopter pilot, he flew to remote bases in Iraq where he saw soldiers who had almost nothing. 

“We started trying to raise money to send phone cards to the soldiers, and while we were doing that, we found out about Blue Star Moms,” Simpson said. “By becoming a member of the group, we found we could do even more.”

Simpson and her husband hosted the Salute Our Troops booth during the NHRA drag races in July.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “The stories we heard from people were amazing. We got lots and lots of support from the fans who are supportive of our troops. It put us in contact with so many people. Moms would come up to us and say their son or daughter just enlisted and they did not know what to expect. We got new members from having a booth at the track.”

“People don’t understand how limited supplies are for our troops,” Simpson said. “Clean socks are the No. 1 requested item. Usually there is no water in the remote areas, so troops literally wear their underwear and socks until they fall apart. That is also why baby wipes are one of the top requested items. With no water, the troops are not able to shower, so baby wipes come in handy.”

For those interested in donating, the items must be new, unopened and in the manufacturer’s original packaging. Socks, baby wipes, eye drops, lip balm, sun block, toothpaste and toothbrushes are high priority items.

Powdered drink mixes (individual packets), cookies, crackers, pretzels (snack sizes), chewing gum, nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, tuna (in a pouch) and canned meats (no pork products) are also needed. Bring them to the Sonoma Salutes Our Troops booth during the IndyCar race weekend.

The raceway will also host thousands of military members and their families during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma race weekend, thanks to the raceway’s partnership with PG&E and the USO (United Services Organization) of Northern California. 

Some of the season-long elements the raceway has featured include discounts for active-duty and reserve military members as well as veterans, and a dedicated page on www.infineonraceway.com/military.

For more information on Sonoma Salutes Our Troops at the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma race weekend, go to www.infineonraceway.com, or www.solanobluestar moms.org/.

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