Fmr. Army Specialist to open Honda Grand Prix

By Trevor Pettiford, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, March 22, 2013

Race fans are preparing to start their engines.

The Honda Grand Prix officially kicks off Friday in downtown St. Petersburg.

This year’s race weekend will have some special guests too, thanks to a new partnership.

Former Army Specialist Charlie Lemon will deliver the famous words that signal the start of the race; ‘Gentlemen, start your engines.’

“I'm not a very loud person so I want to be excited, because I am excited about it. But I also don't want to be too out there, so we'll see. I'll definitely do some practicing before the race,” said Lemon.

This once in a lifetime opportunity came through Wish for Heroes, a non-profit group that literally lives up to its name. It gives thousands of military members and their families a chance to see the Honda Grand Prix first hand. And this year it’s free of charge.

Founder Jeff Wells says the response immediately went into high gear.

“We have people coming all the way from San Antonio, Texas. We have a couple of our air force bases we work with out there. They're bringing buses down from San Antonio. Obviously, MacDill here locally, a lot of the local bases, but they're coming from all over,” said Wells, the founder of Wish for Heroes.

Lemon lost his legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq two years ago during a routine escort mission.

But he never lost his spirit, and has found support through groups like Wish for Heroes.

“I want to be right up front. I'm ready to give the command and take it all in,” said Lemon.

The Honda Grand Prix races will run through Sunday.