Photo: Eclipse Spotswire - Sue Kawczynski
Patriotism is a point of pride for most American citizens, but how patriotism is displayed varies from person to person. For the vast majority of people, saluting the flag; standing and placing their hand over their heart while singing the National Anthem; or even enlisting in the armed forces is enough. However, for others, these typical actions simply will not do, and they find bigger ways to show their patriotism.
Green Beans Coffee, for example, began the ‘Cup of Joe for a Joe’ campaign. On their website, people can choose a dollar amount to donate, and Green Beans Coffee will deliver your gift of coffee along with a message to troops overseas. When Craig Steichen and his son Matt decided to visit every NFL stadium in the U.S., they also decided that their journey should be about more than just fulfilling a bucket list item. Accompanied by over 65 wounded warriors, the father-son duo managed the whirlwind journey in 15 weeks.
Country music star Toby Keith is perhaps one of the most outspoken celebrities out there when it comes to being a patriot. The star has completed more than 10 USO tours and performed more than 200 overseas concerts. During a concert in Houston, TX, he surprised a military wife by inviting her up onstage with him while he sang “American Soldier.” As the song ended, her husband appeared onstage, surprising his wife who had no idea that he was coming home then. He then launched into a rousing rendition of “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue.” If you have never heard either of these songs, I challenge you to listen to “American Soldier” without becoming emotional or to listen to “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” without swelling with patriotic pride.
Recent events have once again brought patriotism to the forefront of minds across the country. In the wake of the tragic bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on, ironically enough, Patriots’ Day, there came an outpouring of pride and love for our country. Pictures of ordinary citizens rushing to the aid of wounded strangers circled the internet, and funds were established to help ease the burden of the mounting medical bills for those that were injured. While the Boston bombing victims battle to regain a sense of normalcy, Fox Hill Farm’s Rick Porter is seeking to give World War II veterans, specifically those who were a part of the Normandy invasion, a day they will never forget.
No stranger to battles himself, Rick Porter is a staunch patriot who actually visited Normandy on the 50th anniversary of the invasion. But while a true blue patriot, it is internal battles, not battles against the enemy with which Porter is familiar. Back in 2008, trainer Larry Jones was not the only person who almost decided to leave the thoroughbred industry for good following the tragic death of Eight Belles, who broke both front ankles right past the wire after placing second in that year’s Kentucky Derby. Though Jones took most of the heat from outraged animal rights’ groups since he trained the filly, both he and owner Rick Porter felt the sharp sting of losing their beloved filly. Ultimately, though, both remained in the game and have since brought along a few more stars, most notably Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.
This year, Fox Hill Farm’s stable star is Kentucky Derby hopeful Normandy Invasion. Though the bay son of Tapit has yet to win a race since breaking his maiden, strong runner-up efforts in the G2 Remsen and the G1 Wood Memorial earned him enough points to guarantee a spot in the gate come May 4th. Eight Belles and Hard Spun both brought home the runner-up’s share of the Kentucky Derby purse in 2008 and 2007 respectively, but it should be no surprise that Porter hopes Normandy Invasion will bring home the winner’s share of this year’s Kentucky Derby purse. Win or lose, though, he would like to share the day with any surviving veterans of the Normandy Invasion. So far he has been able to contact two Normandy Invasion veterans, but he would love to have more as his guests on Derby Day. Kentucky Derby day is already a big event, a special occasion that gives people an excuse to dress up, wear large, elegant hats, and drink mint juleps. With such an atmosphere in place, wouldn’t it be something if Normandy Invasion led the charge straight into the winner’s circle?
Anyone who is interested or who knows someone that may be interested can contact Rick Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org.