NASCAR honors OSI fallen hero, his Gold Star family

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • Air Force Office of Special Investigations Public Affairs

Among the myriad of remembrances across the nation Memorial Day weekend, it was a motorsports event, in particular, that resonated for an Office of Special Investigations Gold Star family.

At the Jennerstown Speedway in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania, May 29, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, titled the Jennerstown Salutes 150, remembered the fallen U.S. military members and those currently serving or suffering the effects from war.

Each of the 34 drivers in the race carried the name of a veteran lost in war on their 600-horsepower cars.

The name of Staff Sgt. David Wieger, a fallen OSI special agent, was prominently displayed above the windshield of two-time Whelen Modified Tour Champion, Justin Bonsignore of Long Island, New York.

On Nov. 1, 2007, Wieger, along with fellow special agents Thomas Crowell and Nathan Schuldheiss, were killed in Iraq when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Wieger was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal (second Oak Leaf Cluster) and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

“Honoring everyone on Memorial Day who has made the ultimate sacrifice for our country is special,” Bonsignore said prior to the race. “I’m excited to have Staff Sgt. Wieger’s name on our Kenneth Massa Motorsports car, and I’m excited to give his family something to enjoy and cheer for on the track. Hopefully, they’ll be cheering us along to a win.”

Bonsignore proved to be prophetic, because he did win, taking the checkered flag after leading nearly the entire race from the pole position, on the way to his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of 2021, and the 30th win of his career.

Following the race, Bonsignore presented his winning trophy to Wieger’s father, Michael Wieger, Sr., in Victory Lane.

The Wieger Gold Star Family resides just 20 miles from the Jennerstown Speedway in North Huntington, Pennsylvania. They were specifically invited to serve as the grand marshals and honorary starters for the race. Plus the race promoters asked the Wiegers to drive David’s Jeep around the track for a lap to honor him.

As a patriotic industry, the racing community is a longtime, steadfast supporter of the U.S. military, its fallen and their families.

“These special tributes to our fallen heroes are so important to the Gold Star families, friends and fellow veterans they served with,” said Tony Aubrey, a combat veteran of more than 20 years with Operation Vet NOW, Inc., a nonprofit organization established to reduce veteran suicide and improve the overall wellness of veterans, regardless of era served, through innovative outreach experiences.

“All of us at OVN are honored to have them at this important event,” Aubrey added. “Staff Sgt. Wieger and all those represented on this night gave their lives for this country, and we owe it to them and their families to ensure their story and legacy lives on. We are dedicated to this mission.”

The dedicated support the Wiegers received from OSI from the time of their son’s passing, has made a lasting impression on the Gold Star family.

“The OSI family has been so good to us,” said David’s mother, Loreena Wieger, during a Facebook interview with Aubrey prior to race day. “From the time David died, when (then-OSI commander) Gen. Simmons said at the funeral, ‘We’ll never forget him, we’ll never forget you guys.’ That OSI family just wrapped their arms around us.”