BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (April 2, 2013) – Medal of Honor Recipient Leo Thorsness is scheduled to appear this weekend as a guest speaker during Panther Racing’s “Operation: Hire Our Guard” presentation. Thorsness was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty for his actions over North Vietnam on April 19th, 1967.

For a full round-up of Panther’s employment program from the last race in St. Petersburg, including video, photo galleries and interviews with business leaders and military leadership who attended, read our Interactive Magazine HERE:

Thorsness, along with several other Medal of Honor Recipients, have been an instrumental part of Panther’s program to fight Veteran unemployment. Last week in St. Petersburg Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell was the honorary speaker during the “Operation: Hire Our Guard” program and both men were amongst the 10 Medal of Honor recipients that were guests of Panther during the Indy 500 last May. The team plans to bring in another large group of Medal of Honor recipients for the Indianapolis 500 weekend this year as well to help raise awareness and educate potential employers about Veteran unemployment.

As a pilot of an F-105, Lt. Col. Thorsness was on a surface-to-air suppression mission over North Vietnam when he and his wingman attacked and silenced two surface-to-air missile sites before Lt. Col. Thorsness’ wingman was shot down by intensive anti-aircraft fire, forcing the two crewmembers to abandon their aircraft. Thorsness circled the descending parachutes and spotted a MIG-17 in the area, and initiated an attack and destroyed the MIG-17. Though Lt. Col. Thorsness was critically low on fuel, he returned to the site of the downed crew and spotted four MIG-17 aircraft circling the two crewmembers, initiated an attack on the MIGs and damaged one aircraft while driving the others away.

Operation: Hire Our Guard Program Scheduled Sunday:
This weekend at 11:45am Panther will conduct its “Operation: Hire Our Guard” program in the team’s hospitality area at Barber Motorsports Park.

Operation: Hire Our Guard is a Panther Racing initiative to raise awareness and educate business leaders around the country about the increasing unemployment crisis facing our National Guard, with the ultimate goal of making the connections necessary between the military and business leaders to secure quality employment for National Guard Soldiers. Unemployment is the No. 1 issue facing returning and demobilizing National Guard members and their families. Overall unemployment is 13% - as high as 30% for Veterans between 18-30 – and, in total, there are currently 65,000 unemployed National Guard members. These goals will be accomplished through at-track programs during IndyCar Series race weekends, off-site and employer-outreach programs in states where IndyCar does not race and through nationwide promotional efforts.

Last year Panther’s events provided Veterans exposure to approximately 9,300 job opportunities and based on a conservative approach, potentially over 4,300 Guardsmen have been employed as a result of our program. While our employment program is a small dent in the 65,000 estimated unemployed Guardsmen, our efforts will increase in 2013 as our partnerships and program grow.