NASCAR driver Kurt Busch wants to help military veterans assimilate into civilian life.
To do that, he’s sharing his love of the sport. The 2017 Daytona 500 champ has been giving away 100 tickets to current soldiers and vets for each Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
“It’s not just money, it’s not time,” said Busch. “It’s relationships.
“It’s finding unique ways to help them reintegrate themselves.”
Soldiers often face new circumstances when they transition out of the service. For example, many feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding work because they are starting over, a 2018 report found.
Different organizations are trying to help ease that adjustment. The Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) is one of those.
The nonprofit provides free tickets to sporting events, concerts, performing arts and more to active soldiers, vets, members of the National Guard and Reserves, and immediate family members of those killed in action. The organization is now working with Busch to distribute the tickets.
“Regardless of how much time you spend in the military, when you get out, there is culture shock,” explained Vet Tix’s chief strategy officer Steven Weintraub, a recently retired U.S. Marine colonel.
The goal of Vet Tix is to help reduce stress and promote engagement with local communities. The organization gives away the donated tickets in blocks, so that the service members and vets are all sitting together.
Certified financial planner and ReisUP founder Tara Falcone, who works with military families, said opportunities like this help veterans “quench the thirst for community” that usually arises after returning from active duty.
“It also provides an opportunity to create new, happy memories with their family after spending significant time apart due to duty and deployment,” said Falcone, whose husband is a U.S. Navy officer.
There has also been an unintended consequence, added Weintraub.
“This has really helped veterans and service members with challenges related to PTSD and isolation and suicidal thoughts,” he said.
Busch said he was inspired to help out after meeting soldiers and veterans, and two in particular: Joey Jones, a double amputee, who now works with a country band doing fundraising events, and Liam Dwyer, who lost a leg and injured his arm.
Busch met Dwyer during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“He called me out and he goes, ‘Why are you here? Why are you at the hospital seeing us? You’re just here to get your photo taken,’” Busch recounted.
″‘You know what, Leon?’ I said, ‘I’m here because I’m inspired by you. I want to give back. You’re helping me do that,’” he added.
The pair have been “best friends ever since,” Bush said.
Tune in: Watch the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN or on the NBC Sports App.