Inaugural Ball Emphasizes 'America Supports You' Theme
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2005 A massive outpouring of support for America's men and women in uniform particularly those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and the families of those killed in combat filled the Mellon Auditorium here Jan. 20 at the first Heroes Red, White and Blue Inaugural Ball.
Band members of Chic, who performed at the Heroes Red, White
and Blue Inaugural Ball on Jan. 20, videotape a public service announcement to
be aired on the Pentagon Channel reminding the troops that "America Supports
You." Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The ball, sponsored by Citizens Helping Heroes and Veterans Foundation Inc. to honor wounded troops, focused on the tremendous sacrifices they and their fellow servicemembers have made and continue to make in serving their country.
"It's very important to recognize those who have been injured and hurt, and it's a great pleasure and a great honor to be here," said Sylver Logan Sharp of the Washington-based group Chic that performed at the event.
Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera, who emceed the event, taped a public service announcement for the Pentagon's "America Supports You" program backstage while waiting for the ball's 9 p.m. kick-off.
"I've seen you all in action," Rivera said of his five trips to Iraq and five to Afghanistan to cover U.S. military operations there. "It's amazing to be shoulder to shoulder with the men and women deployed and fighting the war on terror in the field," he said. "You're the new rock stars! And you should know that America supports you."
And just as he said he feels the troops "have my back" when he goes into combat alongside them, Rivera told them, "You have your country's back."
Rivera continued his accolades onstage, as he introduced the lineup of performers including co-host Connie Stevens, Michael Bolton, Nile Rodgers and Chic, Lillias White, Tavares, D.J. Doug E. Fresh and presidential impersonator Steve Bridges. Also participating were Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi.
America owes "a profound debt" to its men and women in uniform, particularly those wounded in combat, Rivera told the group. He urged all Americans to embrace the men and women returning home from Southwest Asia and express their appreciation. "I'm going to start a campaign!" he said.
Entertainer Connie Stevens, co-host of the event and USO supporter for the past 40 years, said she's watched four generations of Americans serve their country through "courage and selfless dedication."
"They've taught me how to serve my country just a little better," she said.
While videotaping an "America Supports You" public service announcement, Butch Tavares said he and his fellow bandmates in The Tavares Brothers "are very respectful" of what America's servicemembers are doing for their country.
"God bless you for keeping our world safe," he told the group at the ball before beginning his performance. "We love you!"
Tavares called performing at a ball for wounded troops "a real privilege" that promotes the inaugural theme of unity. "When you're here doing something like this for such a special cause, political differences move aside," he said.
Monty and Kimaya, members of the group Hiroshima, praised the troops in the audience as America's "unsung heroes" and dedicated their opening song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," to their service and sacrifice. "We love you!" Kimaya exclaimed.
But it wasn't just performers, celebrities and military and defense leaders who extended support for the troops at the ball. Those in the audience who bought tickets to the event called it a fitting tribute to America's troops, particularly because proceeds go to Fisher House, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Washington USO.
"It's fantastic, and so appropriate when we're at war with people paying the price of that war," said Theresa Brown of Hyattsville, Md. "This is a great opportunity for us to honor them."
Army Lt. Col. Ritza Reese, a nurse at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, said she bought her ticket as a show of support for the wounded troops she sees on a daily at work.
She said she hopes the inaugural ball and the immense gratitude being expressed by the American people will send an important message to the troops. "People do care," she said. "And unlike in other wars, we are not going to forget you. You are our heroes, and we are going to stick by you."