FORT WORTH, Texas (June 10, 2013) – Oriol Servia had high hopes for his first race in Panther Racing’s No. 4 car, and the Spaniard admitted Saturday’s result at Texas Motor Speedway was one of the more disappointing he could remember. But as he conducted his post-race debrief with race engineer David Cripps, a big wave of perspective came and tapped him on the shoulder.

It was SPC Rodsun Rodrigo, Panther’s Hometown Hero for that weekend, who had – somewhat sheepishly – walked over to Servia to say thanks for the weekend. The two men had met earlier in the day when SPC Rodrigo sat next to Servia during the IndyCar Series autograph session that featured all the drivers competing on the high-banked 1.5-mile oval that night.

SPC Rodrigo was no longer wearing his uniform top, a rare sight for a soldier, but Servia soon noticed it that Rodsun had it folded in his hand.  He extended his hand toward Servia, and handed him the uniform.

“I want to give this to you,” he said.  “To say thank you for the weekend.”

The disappointment that had defined Servia’s face since the end of the race was instantly replaced by astonishment.

“Are you kidding me?” Servia questioned. “Are you really giving this to me?”

SPC Rodrigo wasn’t kidding. Even as Servia asked several times if the young soldier was really OK with giving away his uniform, Rodrigo became more adamant – nothing would make him happier than Servia accepting his gift.

“I wore that when I was deployed in Iraq,” Rodrigo continued. “It’s been through a lot. Right before we came home we got ambushed and there was a sniper trying to hit our guys.”

Going the extra mile is nothing new to SPC Rodrigo – who enlisted in the Texas National Guard in 2000 after being raised in the Philippines until coming to the US in 2000. He originally specialized in wheeled vehicle mechanics, and later completed his airborne qualifications in Fort Benning, Georgia. After later being reclassified to infantry tactics he deployed to Iraq in 2008 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But he’s back home now, assigned to the 698th Military Police (Criminal Investigations Division), but also frequently volunteers for both Army and civilian schools to develop his skills.

Servia hopes that’s enough to earn him a new uniform.

“This just puts everything in perspective,” Servia said. “I thought I had a bad day out there, and then you hear about him being ambushed and having a sniper after him. I can’t imagine something like that. Not only am I proud to represent the National Guard, but hearing about what these soldiers do for us is amazing.”