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Free Access Available for NFL Pre-game Show to Honor Troops

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2003 – Military men and women and their families will have front-row seats to a free concert to kick off the 2003 National Football League season here Sept. 4.

The event, formally promoted as "NFL Kickoff Live 2003 From the National Mall Presented by Pepsi Vanilla," will salute America's service members and Department of Defense civilians. It will begin 6 p.m. EDT Sept. 4 and feature musical performers Mary J. Blige, Britney Spears and Aerosmith. Aretha Franklin will conclude the concert with the national anthem. The location will be in roughly the same place as the annual Fourth of July concert near the U.S. Capitol.

The rain-or-shine event is open to the public, but is designed to honor America's military forces, especially those who have participated in the global war on terrorism.

Service members, who are encouraged to wear open-collar dress uniforms, may register at the U.S. Army Installation Management Agency Web site by clicking on the Operation Tribute to Freedom icon. As of Aug. 18, 4,000 service members had signed up.

Beginning 2:30 p.m. Sept. 4, service members in uniform with ID, can pick up wristbands at one of four Operation Tribute to Freedom tents set up on the mall. Wristbands, given on a first-come, first-serve basis, allow recipients access to the front sections of the concert area. Before entering the concert area, all guests will go through a security screening area.

This is a great opportunity for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their civilian counterparts to get out, relax and get some entertainment, said Army Col. Daniel Wolfe, executive officer, Operation Tribute to Freedom Task Force.

"It's a really wonderful event," he added. "It's terrific for the NFL to recognize the troops and what better place to do that than on the mall in our nation's capital."

There will be large video display screens throughout the concert area. Following the concert, the screens will broadcast the season opener between the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets at FedEx Field, located in nearby suburbs.

"We had a spectacular first-ever kickoff event last year in New York City to celebrate the resilient spirit of the city and America," NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in an NFL news release. "We are looking forward to this season's opening game in the nation's capital, which presents a unique opportunity to salute the military and other public servants."

Part of the concert event will be televised live before the game, from 8 to 9 p.m. EDT on ABC. The one-hour show will be shown after the game on the West Coast. It will also be broadcast on American Forces Radio and Television Service.

Updates on the event will be posted on the IMA Web site.

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