MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE -- Screeching tires, fast driving and tight corners were sights and sounds to behold as Operation Wheels of Freedom kicked off Aug. 25 here.
The Wheels of Freedom foundation is a group of automotive enthusiasts and professional drivers who have teamed up with several sponsors to bring entertainment as well as a good message to Marines and sailors here, according to John Graffius, one of the coordinators with the foundation.
The concept of the program was based on a similar program, which was done during the Vietnam War, according to Graffius. The program offered entertainment to the troops over there and gave them a little piece of home.
The foundation teaches Marines and sailors about safe driving techniques, reaction time, the importance of awareness while on the road and driving while impaired, according to Graffius.
“Just because you’re not in a combat zone doesn’t mean you are completely safe,” Graffius said. “A lot of [safety] is awareness and knowing you aren’t invincible.”
The foundation brings with it cars people aboard the base can drive through a course with a professional driver, according to Graffius. People had the opportunity to drive a wide variety of high performance cars including the Ford Mustang, the Dodge SRT-10 pick up and the Pontiac GTO.
“They are fast. The car just throws you back in the seat,” said Lance Cpl. Charles A. Garrett, a military policeman with 2nd Military Police Battalion, 2d Force Service Support Group. “It’s a good feeling having this kind of support, and I appreciate what they’re doing.”
The foundation also gave demonstrations with the vehicles with a person in the passenger seat, according to Dave Muyres, a foundation coordinator.
“This is part of the entertainment element,” Muyres said. “This is something that children and other people can do who don’t have a license.”
The foundation was originally planning to travel to Iraq and Kuwait, but because of safety issues, they decided to travel to different military installations around the country, according to Muyres. The foundation is also planning on visiting Marine Corps Base Quantico and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.
The foundation was created to honor, entertain and educate service members by reminding them they are never far from home and thanking them for serving to protect the United States.