By Greer Smith
The High Point Enterprise
The different view came as a result of taking a trip to help bring a little cheer to military personnel in Iraq and Kuwait.
Wimmer formed his opinion after participating in a goodwill tour with fellow racers who included former Daytona 500 winner Geoffrey Bodine, drag racer Hillary Will and aspiring open-wheel driver Arie Luyendyk Jr.
"There were guys there who have had their tours of duty increased to 15 months so they are missing their second Christmas and there guys who left before their kids were born and haven't seen them," Wimmer said. "They made a tremendous sacrifice and when you think about all they've gone through, then you think about how privileged we are to enjoy the holidays the way we do."
Wimmer said the group flew to Kuwait and visited two bases there. It then went to Baghdad and traveled to the northern, western and southern parts of Iraq. The stops included about 20 bases. As part of the tour, Wimmer was allowed to drive a tank and a Humvee. He also rode in a variety of aircraft that included Blackhawk and Osprey helicopters and C-130 transport planes.
"Some places we only stayed about half an hour," Wimmer said. "Other places we were at three or four hours, and those were the most enjoyable because we actually got to spend time talking to troops and signed autographs."
Among the soldiers he met were some from his native Wisconsin and some from North Carolina, including people from Charlotte and Winston-Salem.
"There were some who had seen me win races and some who had seen me race," Wimmer said. "There were some who had been stationed at the Dover Air Force base and saw races there. There were some who piloted F-14s and F-16s in flyovers at some of the races before the races.
"So it was nice to be able to talk racing with them. A lot of them didn't know who won the championship or who had the fastest cars. They don't get to much of the races because of the time difference, so we got them up to speed on that and some other things outside of racing."
He said many of the soldiers stressed that the situation in Iraq is improving.
"They wanted us to know that there are positive things going on other than the bad news that gets reported," Wimmer said. "They told us that the mission is more than to control the terrorists groups. They said the incidents stemming from IEDs (Improvised Explosives Devices left on roadsides by opposition forces) were once about 400 a week and now are down to one or two a week. They are helping rebuild the schools and water systems and power systems to help make life better for the Iraqi people.
"Some of the places we went, you could see the children wave and smile at the helicopters when we flew over. We were told that wasn't always the case."
One of the bases visited was near the former Shiite stronghold of Sadr City.
"They said that was one of the most dangerous sections of Iraq a year ago and we were able to visit there this time," Wimmer said.
He saw Iraqi police and military being trained. While in Baghdad, the group toured one of Saddam Hussein's captured palaces. Wimmer sat in Hussein's throne that featured gold lions heads on the arm rests.
"It was incredible," Wimmer said. "There was a lot of marble and gold in the palace. It was something to think that he lived in such huge palaces while some of the people were living in poverty."
Wimmer also visited the biblical city of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, in the ancient area known as Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers near Baghdad. It was settled over 6,000 years ago and was the capital of a small empire about 2000 B.C. He also saw the burial place for the King and Queen of Ur.
"To see that kind of history, the achievements of that civilization, was unbelievable," Wimmer said.
He admitted that he had some misconceptions about the region before he went.
"I thought it would be just like some third-world country with people living in tents and that sort of thing," Wimmer said. "I was little surprised that Baghdad was like a city here in the states. I have a better understanding now of how things are over there.
"Going over there and seeing what is going is something that will be hard to forget. It makes you more appreciative of the kind of life we enjoy over here."
Wausau NASCAR driver shares his trip to Iraq
Posted: Jan 10, 2009 07:16 PM
Scott Wimmer discusses trip to Iraq
by Colby Robertson
WAUSAU (WAOW) -- NASCAR driver and Wausau native Scott Wimmer was given the opportunity of a lifetime this past December.
He and three other racers spent 12 days in Iraq visiting different bases and talking with troops.
Wimmer says, "It's something that I was looking to do for a long time. I really wanted to go overseas and see what the men and women of America were doing over there to help Iraq."
Scott Wimmer says this trip to Iraq is something he'll never forget. He not only brought home hundreds of pictures to share, but also these short home videos.
Some of their top experiences include getting to drive Bradley Tanks, Abrams and Humvees.
Wimmer says, "The soldiers are very proud of the equipment they use and the things they have at their disposal, so they love to show us that and let us shoot their guns. Got a little target practice in."
But Wimmer says just spending time with the troops was priceless. "We got to see a lot of different bases. We got to see 20 different ones and got to talk to them, got to see what they were doing to really help build Iraq. They said a year ago you couldn't go into the streets without some form of protection. Now we're able to go into the streets, kids are playing in the streets, markets are opening back up."
Wimmer says there were so many wonderful things that he saw and experienced, but one thing that sticks out in his mind when looking back on this trip is how historical Iraq is.
"We went to the house of Abraham. The prophet Abraham who is in the bible and it was actually 6000 years before Christ that this city was started and people were unable to see that. It was definitely a learning experience for me."
The trip was funded by the government. Wimmer was joined on the trip by former Nascar racer Geoff Bodine, Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Drag racer Hillary Will.
To view Scott's interview on WAOW TV9, please click on the following link
For photos of Scott's trip to Iraq, please visit the photo gallery.