Don Graves, a 98-year-old U.S. Marine and one of a very special group of living American heroes who made the successful assault on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima during World War II, will perform God Bless America prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 NASCAR Cup Series playoff race Sept. 24 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The Fort Worth resident has sung God Bless America and The Star-Spangled Banner prior to numerous events but this will be his first time at a NASCAR Cup Series event with a national television audience.
“The opportunity to sing God Bless America to a national TV audience is a rare treat and I am so thrilled to be able to do it,” said Graves. “It is a great honor.”
Graves, the son of a U.S. Marine, joined the Marines the day after his 17th birthday in 1942 after being turned down, for being too young, immediately following the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941. He was trained as a flame thrower and his first combat assignment was the initial attack on Iwo Jima beginning Feb. 19, 1945.
The Detroit native was one of only 18 of the 335 men of his Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Division to survive the successful 36-day assault forever memorialized by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Joe Rosenthal of the Stars and Stripes being raised atop Mount Suribachi. He was honorably discharged from the military in 1946 with the rank of corporal.
Graves became a minister in the mid-1970s and retired from preaching in 2007 after 32 years of service to the community and his parishioners.
Texas Motor Speedway Executive Vice President & General Manager Mark Faber made the invitation to Mr. Graves in person on June 22 at Graves’ home in Fort Worth.
“All of us at Texas Motor Speedway are honored to welcome a true American hero like Don Graves to sing God Bless America prior to the start of the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400,” said Faber. “We will celebrate Mr. Graves for his valiant service to his country as a U.S. Marine in World War II as well as his 32 years of service to his church and parishioners. He is a hero to us all.”
— Texas Motor Speedway —