Be the One!
That’s the challenge the Legion has issued to our membership. We all know the reason for the challenge – helping reduce the veteran suicide toll.
All across the country, Legion members and posts are finding ways to meet the challenge and Legionnaire Robert Hess, a life member of Post 43 in Hollywood, Calif., is no exception. Robert is leading a two-car Be the One road rally from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., beginning Aug. 13, 2023.
In addition to his American Legion membership, Robert leads the Disabled Veteran Empowerment Network (DVEN), a 501 c3 charity. One of DVEN’s key programs is veteran suicide awareness and prevention. To that end, DVEN created the Rally4Vets motorsports program – ww.rally4vets.com – to give automotive enthusiasts a way to support the disabled veteran community.
The Legion’s partnership with the Chip Ganassi race team in the Indycar series has greatly increased awareness of veteran suicide in the motorsport enthusiast community. While most of us will never compete in an Indycar event, Legionnaires can participate in DVEN’s annual Top Dog Championships using their daily driver.
The Top Dog Championships are open to drivers (18+) and the format is a track cross, with drivers running at 30-second intervals to set the fastest time in their class. The unique aspect of the Top Dog Championships is that drivers compete both individually and as service teams. Think of the annual Army-Navy football rivalry, but played out on a racetrack with all of the services competing. It’s all about camaraderie and friendly inter-service competition with the goal of raising awareness of veteran suicide.
It sounds a bit daunting, but it’s really fun and safe. The 2022 Top Dog event results and photos are on the DVEN website at https://bit.ly/3SSdLke.
The 3rd annual Top Dog Championships takes place on Oct. 1, 2023, at Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia, just over 60 miles from D.C. There are only 80 driver slots available, and registration is open. Spectators, family and friends can enjoy the event free of charge. The event will be livestreamed to YouTube and Facebook so veterans, active-duty personnel and their families can watch and cheer their team on from anywhere in the world.
DVEN has a 1997 Mazda Miata and a 2007 C6 Corvette it uses in its outreach programs. Both of these cars proudly display the American Legion logo.
As part of Robert’s and DVEN’s 2023 Be the One program contributions, the cars will make a cross-country trip from Los Angeles to D.C. in August 2023 to take part in this year’s Top Dog Championships.
The tentative route of march: departure from Post 43 in Hollywood, with stops at American Legion posts in Palm Springs, Phoenix, Sedona, Santa Fe, the National Corvette Museum, and a drive on the legendary Tail of the Dragon. The rally ends with a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
The DVEN team is available for Be the One events at any American Legion post along the route. Interested posts can contact Robert at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org.