As part of a recent report on the impact of rural America on our nation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that although rural areas only account for 17 percent of our nation's population, they account for nearly 44 percent of the men and women in uniform that make up our armed forces. To me, this shows the huge outpouring of support and service and sacrifice that we see from areas such as our district.
This week, the House considered legislation to fund our Department of Defense, and with that came a vote on a misguided effort to attempt to end the partnership between our military and NASCAR, along with other professional sports. To me, the numbers above highlight the unbreakable bond between our military and the entire auto racing family and industry as well as the core of its fan base. Auto racing was born here, and so too are many of our troops. I'm proud to have helped lead the fight against this amendment, and we were able to preserve this partnership that is so important to our region and our state.
The partnership between NASCAR and our military has provided our nation with a joint effort to find the absolute best ways to prevent injury or death of our soldiers in moments of explosion or high impact. NASCAR engineers have been called on to retrofit existing military vehicles and develop implementation of many of the similar ways they protect drivers in crashes. As Co-Chair of the House Invisible Wounds Caucus, I've seen first-hand the evidence of advancements in protecting both troops and drivers from Traumatic Brain Injuries and other awful effects from the impact of explosives, enemy fire or high speed impact. If this sharing of technology saves just one soldier's life, the partnership is invaluable in my mind.
Our military members are highly trained and physically fit, and in order to recruit people to meet the rigorous requirements and demands of service, each branch must cast a wide net. According to the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, in order to deliver 55 qualified Marines into operating forces they must start with a pool of nearly 10,000 recruiting contacts. Military sponsorships have served as an investment in recruitment and in our ability to respond to any threat to our nation anywhere across the globe.
The value in advertising for the National Guard alone has shown a return on investment of more than 300 percent right back to our armed forces. Whether you're a Dale Jr. fan or not, the number 88 Chevrolet ultimately bears the name of more than 400,000 reserve men and women whose motto is "Always There, Always Ready."
Partnering and advertising through NASCAR and other professional sports allows our military to reach an audience that can best suit the needs of our nation, and I don't believe that it should be Congress' role to micromanage or hinder the needs of our military personnel. Our military leaders are taking calculated steps to rein in spending, and now is not the time to pull funding out from under them or do anything to jeopardize the mission at hand. Through advertising for recruitment, people are informed of the opportunities available to them within the military and can be put on a path to service to our nation, leading many of our troops to furthering their education through the GI Bill.
The bond between our armed forces and motorsports has advanced both efforts to help protect our troops and drivers, and make them more efficient. When our Marines saw increased weight added to humvees from additional armor, they turned to NASCAR engineers in North Carolina for assistance in perfecting a suspension that would be responsive and able to handle the workload and get our troops moving. As our enemies expanded their use of IEDs and explosives to hurt and harm our soldiers, NASCAR assisted with equipment that travels in front of our military vehicles to detonate these explosives and keep those in the cab safe. Our own North Carolina Military Foundation has worked hands-on with NASCAR and Special Forces to help protect our war fighters in ways we never thought possible.
Over Memorial Day weekend in 2010, I was honored to spend time with the men and women of our military serving overseas in Afghanistan. I spoke at length with these troops about their families, their wives and husbands and children at home, where they were from and the mission at hand. When we gathered for breakfast the following morning, we realized that nearly all of us had already been up for hours that morning watching the end of the Coca Cola 600, live on the Armed Forces Network feed. These men and women were nearly 10,000 miles away from Concord, but for the rest of my time with them we spoke of our favorite drivers like we were all right there at the track. The race had served as a small piece of home, and a moment of joy for a group of folks in a place otherwise void of such celebration. I'll never forget that experience and our discussions that weekend.
Whether it's our U.S. Army Golden Knights proudly parachuting into a stadium to present the colors or a flyover from our fighter planes now home from service, our military has a way of harnessing the patriotism and morale of our nation like none other. They serve abroad with the might and fury that helped secure our freedom, and return home to display it as proudly as possible. I'm glad to have heard from all of you I'm honored to represent and fought to protect this bond--one that will continue to promote our freedom and our way of life forever.