Five years ago this May, Staff Sgt. Frankie Phillips IV and four other soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Frankie was just 28 years old.
It was Staff Sgt. Phillips fifth combat deployment, he had previously been deployed four times between Afghanistan and Iraq. His mom, Cherie Phillips, is an administrative assistant at a Lowe’s store in Auburn, New York.
“He didn’t even have to go back the last time,” Cherie said. “The young men on his team had never been and he didn’t want to leave his men, so he went anyway. That’s what you do, you don’t let your team down.”
Staff Sgt. Phillips, a recipient of a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, left behind a wife and 4-year-old daughter. Cherie said her son didn’t feel what he was doing was different from anyone else. He was just doing his job.
Lowe’s chose Staff Sgt. Phillips to be remembered on Jimmie Johnson’s car during the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on May 27 and enlisted Cherie to help with the details. She helped select the No. 48 car’s paint scheme.
“My eye was drawn to the stars. My feelings of the stars are when you lose somebody, they’re little stars in Heaven and they’re watching down over you,” Cherie said.
Tears filled her eyes when she saw the car for the first time and her son’s name between stars on the windshield.
“Seeing it, it just feels real. I’m just very honored that they’re not going to let my son be forgotten, Cherie said. “The scheme, red, white and blue, it’s representing America at its finest. It’s going to be a flag flying down the road winning the race.”
Last week Cherie unveiled the show car for family, friends and coworkers at the Lowe’s where she works. The show car then headed down to Fort Bliss in Texas, where Staff Sgt. Phillips was deployed from. They held a ceremony to honor him and Facetimed Cherie in to say a few words. The show car was on display at Fort Bliss following the ceremony.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson understands how special the remembrance race really is.
“It’s a program I’m very proud of NASCAR to be a part of,” Johnson said. “I’m very proud of Lowe’s to support and it’s just an honor to have Frankie’s name and names on all of our cars out there through the course of the weekend.”
In addition to hosting Cherie during Memorial Day weekend, Lowe’s will host a suite of veteran customers and employees during the Coca-Cola 600.
Lowe’s has a long history of honoring servicemen and women. The company has more than 10,000 employees that are U.S. military veterans or members of the Guard or Reserve.
Current and honorably discharged members of the U.S. Armed Forces receive a 10 percent discount off eligible purchases every day in any U.S. Lowe’s store.