Bowman is a sergeant first class with the Indiana National Guard's 3-19th Agribusiness Development Team, stationed in Khowst province. Along with another area native, 1st Lt. Bart Lomont, from New Haven, Bowman was able to talk via satellite with JR Hildebrand, driver of the National Guard-sponsored Panther Racing car.
Asked what he missed most about home, Bowman said an ice-cold glass of milk.
“JR, I'd love to join you for that glass of milk,” Bowman told the driver, alluding to the traditional drink for the winner.
“There was a dare thrown out there for me to say that,” Bowman said in a phone interview with The News-Sentinel. “I had to do it. I look forward to meeting him in person one day. I think he's going to win it.”
Bowman pointed out that Panther Racing has finished second in the last three Indy 500s, with drivers Vitor Meira in 2008 and Dan Wheldon in 2009 and 2010.
The 100th anniversary running of the Indy 500 begins at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Bowman and Lomont hope to watch this year's Indy 500 via satellite, even if it's on tape delay. While both men live in Indianapolis now, they have long-standing connections to the Fort Wayne area. Lomont's parents still farm here.
Linking up with Panther Racing – and the National Guard connection – allows them to have a taste of home while on their one-year assignment. Bowman said he first attended the Indy 500 in the 1970s and says A.J. Foyt was his favorite driver.
“It's a family tradition,” Bowman said. “I have a lot of love for the Indy 500, that's my favorite race. I've been to a lot of other ones, but this is the one we look forward to the most. My brothers and I go, and the last several years, my wife (Jamie) has gone with me, too.”
Bowman caught a little heat from his wife for choosing milk as the thing he missed most from home, but he plans to make up for that when he goes on a short leave in about a week. His unit's assignment lasts until around mid-August.
Part of the reason Bowman loves the 500 is because of the honor for service that permeates the Memorial Day weekend event. Bowman, 51, has been in the guard for 29 years, but this is his first overseas deployment. He plans to retire soon.
“One of the things growing up and going to the racetrack that struck me was the patriotic spirit they have at the race,” Bowman said. “It's one of the most well-put-together displays of patriotism and respect for the holiday that there is. It's breathtaking.”
Lomont, 28, who graduated from Heritage High School, praised Panther Racing for scheduling the satellite link, which also included a question-and-answer period with cadets from the Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe Academy. The event took place on Armed Forces Day.
“Panther Racing has always been a huge supporter of the military, and they made it all possible,” Lomont said.
The 3-19th ADT is comprised of soldiers and airmen from the National Guard. The unit is helping Afghans to improve their agricultural production as the country deals with the aftermath of war.