Iraq vet to wave NASCAR flag

Balestrino family

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A Valley Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient will get a special opportunity to serve as the honorary starter at the NASCAR race this Sunday in Michigan.

Dave Balestrino Jr. of Youngstown won a Facebook contest giving him and his family the chance to wave the green flag at Sunday’s NASCAR race. Balestrino said the flag will wave in honor of his 6-year-old son Brady, who he had to leave behind to serve in Iraq.

“I missed the whole first year of Brady’s life, and I wanted to repay him for his sacrifices, also,” Balestrino said.

During the time Balestrino served as a combat engineer he took the time, when he could, to talk with his wife Abbie and watch Brady grow through a web cam.

“You don’t realize the daily interaction you have with a family member until they’re gone and being gone that long, but we made the most of it,” said Abbie Balestrino.

Excited to spend this weekend with Brady and his youngest son Dominic, Balestrino said he can’t believe sharing his story touched so many. His entry garnered 800 votes.

“Basically what was happening was people across the country would see this story then they would vote and share it,” said Balestrino. “I mean, it was just amazing to see the support that they got.”

The family will leave for Michigan Friday night hoping to see their favorite racer Kasey Kahne.

“It will be something that he’ll never forget,” said Balestrino.

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