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Pep Rally Heightens Excitement for Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

By Annette Crawford
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT WORTH, Texas, Dec. 23, 2006 – Team spirit was evident last night all over the streets of the downtown area here known as Sundance Square. Whether it was wearing the school colors of two teams ready to take each other on in a gridiron challenge, or the uniform pride of armed forces members, there was no doubt this is an all-American event.

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Judy McBride arranges giveaway items at the Bell Helicopter booth at a Dec. 22 pep rally at Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas. The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl kicks off at 7 p.m. Dec. 23 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. McBride is an employee of Bell Helicopter. Photo by Annette Crawford
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The University of Tulsa and the University of Utah go head to head in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl tonight at Texas Christian University’s Amon G. Carter Stadium. But before the teams take to the field, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned pep rally the night before the game.

But this pep rally had an added element. Like most such gatherings, there were the typical marching bands and cheerleaders working the crowd, urging the fans to root for their team. But on the other side of the square, there was an impressive array of military recruiting displays – after all, this is the Armed Forces Bowl.

In addition to getting up close to a tank, Humvee, flight simulator and mini Raptor, fans of all ages were quick to grab promotional items such as T-shirts, hats, pens and posters.

The sponsor of the event, Bell Helicopter, teamed up in its display booth with Give 2 to the Troops, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the physical, spiritual and morale well-being of servicemembers in combat. They do this by raising money and gathering donations to make care packages to send to deployed servicemembers.

When Andrea Harmon of Give 2 to the Troops was contacted by Bell Helicopter and asked if she wanted her organization sponsored by Bell at the bowl game, she said it was an awesome offer.

“Who wouldn’t?” she asked.

Bell’s Brad Wanek said the reason his company is sponsoring the bowl game is a way to give back to the troops. But in addition to those who will be able to enjoy the game in person, he said there are many more servicemembers out there they would like to help.

“We started to brainstorm on how we could reach out to the troops who could not be at the stadium, and one of the ways we came up with was by partnering with Give 2 to the Troops,” Wanek said.

“By taking collections here at the pep rally and at the game, we hope to immediately generate care packages. We’re also hoping that those who weren’t aware before the game, become aware, and there would be a whole cascade of benefits following the game,” Wanek said.

Dee Bash, dressed in 1940s-era garb and sitting in a World War II jeep, said her group, the Arrowhead Chapter of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, is a living history group that honors veterans.

“We ride in veterans parades and go to swing dances and have the vehicles on display. They absolutely love to see us participate,” Bash said. “We try to honor them in any way we can.”

One of the Air Force recruiters at the event, Master Sgt. Greg Baker of the 344th Recruiting Squadron, said events like this pep rally are great for generating interest.

“We’re planting seeds, so to speak,” said Baker, a 20-year veteran. “We’re looking for people who are motivated, responsible and want to serve their country.”

Army Sgt. Chris Taylor said the service’s presence at the event went beyond simple recruiting.

“More of the interest that we hope to generate here is not only that we’re seeking new recruits, but that we want to be involved in the community,” Taylor said. “We’re here to support them.”

Taylor said he thinks the Armed Forces Bowl is a great event for the nation as a whole.

“Look at all the veterans over the years, and it’s a way to pay respect to those who got us this far,” said Taylor, who has been in the Army 10 years and a recruiter for one.

“I want to thank the American public for their support,” Taylor said. “It’s a hard time in the world right now.”

The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl is an event in partnership with America Supports You, a Department of Defense program that showcases American support for members of the armed forces. Since its inception in November 2004 by DOD, America Supports You has welcomed nearly 250 grassroots organizations and more than 33 corporate sponsors to its team.

This is Bell Helicopter’s first year as title sponsor for the Armed Forces Bowl. The game airs at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN television and ESPN Radio to more than 200 stations in 44 states. One of the highlights of the game will be the presentation of the “Great American Patriot Award” at halftime to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

(Annette Crawford is assigned to Air Force Print News.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageBrad Wanek (left) and Andrea Harmon arrange giveaway items at the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Pep Rally in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 22. Wanek is with Bell Helicopter, and had asked Harmon and her group, Give 2 to the Troops, to partner with Bell at the Armed Forces Bowl. Give 2 to the Troops is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting deployed U.S. troops with care packages and letters from all over the nation. (Photo by Annette Crawford  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dee Brown hands out promotional items Dec. 22 at the Navy booth at the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Pep Rally in Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas. The bowl game, pitting Utah vs. Tulsa, kicks off at 7 p.m. Dec. 23 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. Photo by Annette Crawford  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDee Bash sits in an authentic World War II jeep, on display at the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Pep Rally in Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 22. Bash is with the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, a living history organization. Photo by Annette Crawford  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCaptain Cane, the University of Tulsa mascot, gets the crowd going at the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Pep Rally in Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 22. The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl kicks off at 7 p.m. Dec. 23 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. Photo by Annette Crawford  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA spectator at the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Pep Rally in Fort Worth, Texas, tries out the America's Army video game at the Army booth Dec. 22. The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl kicks off at 7 p.m. Dec. 23 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. Photo by Annette Crawford  
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