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Honoring Veterans a Year-Round Job for Pocono’s Bob Pallo

As America honors those in the military past and present this Veteran’s Day, @poconoraceway has made the commitment to pay tribute to those in uniform year-round by hiring Bob Pallo to serve as Vice President of Military Affairs.

Pallo has worked at Pocono since 1978, having served as the track photographer as well as working in sales. In his sales role, Pallo created a large military presence by securing the first military flyover in 1984 and ensuring that all in uniform are honored at every major Pocono event.

“With the blessings of Dr. Mattioli many years ago, he had me working with various military groups, inviting soldiers and families to be his guests at the race track as a way of saying ‘thank you’ and appreciating their volunteering to serve our country,” Pallo told POPULAR SPEED.

“It’s continually evolved, and a month and a half ago, the President and CEO and the COO asked if I would be interested in a new position at the track in Military Affairs. It took me about three seconds of debating before I said yes!”

In addition to involving the military in the pre-race activities, from the bands to the color guards, Pallo hopes to focus now on bigger and better ways of supporting the military and their families. The program he hopes to immediately expand is the Volunteer Staff Program.

“A few years ago, I was named Honorary Commander of the 314 Recruiting Squadron, and in speaking with them, one of their problems was on their fundraising side being able to come up with programs that were legal in the military’s eyes that could raise money for the year end awards banquet,” Pallo explained.

“As a test pilot program with them and through their booster club, the Volunteer Staff Program was developed and has turned into one of the finest programs. The quality of the military persons who volunteer as staff on race day has been exceptional, and the race fans really appreciate it. And then what we do is to make a donation per military volunteer per day to their foundation or charitable group to help them. It’s a win-win for Pocono and the military group.”

Pallo believes that his new position is critical as NASCAR, as well as NASCAR’s sponsors, are the most patriotic of any groups in any sports.

“I see the patriotism at every event. The best example is our driver introductions at Pocono Raceway,” he said. “We use Humvees to transport the drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is introduced, and he is applauded as he takes his lap around the track. Jeff Gordon does the same.

“But the final lap down the front straightaway are all fourteen Humvees packed full of the participating soldiers and it is a roaring standing ovation for the military from the fans as they go down the front straightaway. And that just demonstrates how proud, patriotic and supportive the NASCAR fans are of those men and women who serve our country.”

For Pallo, every day is special when it comes to honoring the military and their families. But Veteran’s Day is especially important as the entire nation pauses to honor those in uniform, past and present.

“Starting as early as this past Saturday, I’ve been out every day with our Pocono military pace truck, a Tahoe that has all branches of service decaled on it,” Pallo said. “I’ve been participating in every parade and every military event and function that I can possibly attend just to show Pocono’s support for our veterans, as well as those currently serving and the family members that line the street who appreciate the thoughts and prayers.

“I’m currently tossing a coin as I’ve been invited to participate in the Philadelphia Veteran’s Day parade as well as an event in Reading, PA. And I can’t be in both, so I have the most difficult decision to make in my new capacity. But God willing, I’ll make the right decision, and I’ll be at one of them.”

Pallo is especially passionate about honoring not only those in service but also the wives, husbands, fathers, mothers and children who support them. And for Pallo, the support of military families is most personal.

“I believe that the soldier may raise his right hand, and volunteer to serve but the wife and the children did not,” Pallo said. “So, the people that I really appreciate are the families, and I hope the race fans realize the sacrifice that the families make. I know it first hand as I have my two boys who are both serving in the Army right now.

“My youngest is in South Korea, serving as a military police. He is soon to come home in 34 days right now. My oldest is in Fort Bliss, Texas working on tanks. So, I’m a very proud military father.”

While Pallo will be busy on Veteran’s Day this year, he is also preparing for the two Pocono races scheduled in the 2016 NASCAR season.

“For June 2016, I have a verbal commitment as of now for the Wall of Remembrance to be displayed at the track,” Pallo said. “And we are working on every aspect that we can to show our appreciation for all who serve. I tried to sign up during the draft years, and I ended up being military exempt due to a medical issue.

“So, I made up my mind way back the that if I couldn’t serve directly in uniform, I would serve as a civilian any way I could to support our service members and our troops. And that is exactly what I will do in my new role at Pocono Raceway.”

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By Mary Jo Buchanan

Mary Jo Buchanan has been a race fan since her childhood, having grown up at a local Pennsylvania dirt track. With her experience in the pits, she has developed an interest and expertise in all levels of racing, from the local scene to the highest level of the sport. Many of her articles focus on the ‘behind the scenes’ and sometimes ‘off the beaten path’ stories about the world of racing. Buchanan also enjoys writing about up and coming drivers and the people that make NASCAR work on a daily basis.