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Vice Chairman Recognizes Wounded Warriors at Radio City Music Hall

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

NEW YORK, Nov. 10, 2008 – Before the first dancing reindeer set a tap-shoe-clad hoof on Radio City Music Hall’s stage for a special performance yesterday, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged some VIPs in the audience.

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Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, applauds a group of wounded warriors in the audience at New York's Radio City Music Hall on Nov. 8, 2008. The 25 warriors were joined by nearly 5,000 other servicemembers and their families for a special preview of the theater’s "Christmas Spectacular," featuring the Rockettes. The special preview of the show was open to servicemembers and their families courtesy of United Service Organizations and Microsoft. DoD photo by Samanth L. Quigley

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“We have [a] … group that’s with us, the wounded warriors,” Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright told the audience here yesterday. “November is Wounded Warrior Month, and these valiant patriots are with us today as they heal and prepare to reintegrate into our forces and into our nation. We owe them a great debt.”

United Service Organizations, in partnership with Microsoft, did its best to repay at least part of that debt. The organizations offered the 25 wounded servicemembers, their guests, and nearly 5,000 other servicemembers and their families a “Salute to the Troops” in the form of a private viewing of Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular.

The wounded warriors were joined by nearly 5,000 of their military brethren for the show, which has entertained audiences for more than 75 years.

The show ran a little more than 90 minutes before the final note of the final scene had completely faded away. And just as soon as they had filled the theater, a sea of uniformed humanity, many with beaming children in tow, pushed through the doors into the crisp Manhattan day.

The show, with its 3-D introduction, bright lights, dazzling costumes and, of course, the world-famous Rockettes and their high kicks, definitely pleased the children like Sophia Salvo, who saw the show last year. The 8-year-old, whose father is Navy Reserve Lt. Samuel Salvo, stationed at Fort Dix, N.J., had been ready to go as soon as Cartwright finished speaking, with her 3-D classes on and spinning a Rockette toy in her hand.

The “big kids” were just as enthralled.

Army Sgt. Joel Dulashanti, one of the wounded warriors participating in the USO-Microsoft weekend, said it was especially good because he’d never been to Radio City Music Hall. His favorite part of the show might be a bit surprising, though.

“The bears rocked,” he said, flashing a mega-watt smile, and referring the dancers in bear costumes in the “The Nutcracker” scene. “The Rockettes in the [rein]deer costumes, that was kind of cool too.”

That reaction only reinforced the thoughts of one Microsoft representative, who knows first-hand what this kind of an event can mean to servicemembers and their families.

“These are our heroes. These are America’s finest sons and daughters, and they are doing a fantastic job out there,” said Mark Dowd, a captain in the Navy Reserve who was injured while serving in Iraq. “I think it’s good to show them that America does care. We want to show our appreciation to them for their sacrifice.”

This is the second year that the USO and Microsoft have teamed up to bring servicemembers and their families a private viewing of Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular.

As part of the special weekend, the wounded warriors saw the sights of New York City, including a boat tour that took them past the Statue of Liberty, and visited Ground Zero for what proved a brief, but emotional, ceremony.

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Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright

Related Sites:
United Service Organizations

Click photo for screen-resolution imageTroops and their families flood into New York's Radio City Music Hall on Nov. 9, 2008, for a private viewing of the theater's world-famous "Christmas Spectacular" featuring the Rockettes. United Service Organizations and Microsoft arranged for the special show as part of its "A Salute to Our Troops" weekend. DoD photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA member of the USO Liberty Belles sings the national anthem as a military color guard presents the colors during a "Salute to the Troops" at New York's Radio City Music Hall on Nov. 9, 2008.  
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