By Valerie Baldowski
Atlanta Motor Speedway, and Degree V12, will partner this Labor Day weekend to show support for America's armed forces.
McDonough resident, Crystal Beale, whose late husband, Georgia Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class John C. Beale, died in June while serving in Afghanistan, has been selected as grand marshal for the Degree V12 300 Nationwide Series race on Sept. 5.
John Beale died in June in Kapisa, Afghanistan, at age 39, from wounds he sustained from a roadside bomb and small-arms fire.
Crystal Beale was chosen as grand marshal after the sponsors heard the story of how her husband died, according to Matthew Simmons, marketing and promotions coordinator for Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"The speedway and sponsors work together to select a grand marshal," said Simmons. "Often, the grand marshal may be an officer from a corporate sponsor, or sometimes a celebrity, but in this case it seemed appropriate to honor our fallen heroes and invite Crystal Beale."
"We're honored to host Crystal Beale as our grand marshal for the Degree V12 300," said Ed Clark, president and general manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway. "Crystal's presence will not only serve as a memoriam to her husband, John, but also to all of America's heroes who have been lost serving to protect our freedoms."
In light of the race being held during the Labor Day weekend, hosting Crystal Beale sends a positive message to the community, Clark said.
"Our military's commitment to protect our freedoms on an ongoing basis allows us to put on and enjoy [racing] events, and we don't take it for granted," he said.
Crystal Beale expressed gratitude at the gesture.
"My husband would be very happy with our community if he knew the level of outpouring and support," she said in a statement released by the racetrack. "Being selected is very humbling, and it was a very big surprise. My children are ecstatic, and we're honored to be able to participate."
The respect shown to the Beale family follows a positive trend, said Clark.
"I'm proud to say this is not just a one-time recognition by Atlanta Motor Speedway, because NASCAR, as a whole, has done a significant job of honoring our military through the years," Clark said.
The Beales are natives of Riverdale and their two children are Christopher and Calye.