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America Supports You: Former Soldier Helps the Show Go On

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

ATLANTA, Feb. 28, 2006 – Today, Jason Gibson's days are filled with clowns, tigers and elephants, and it suits him just fine.

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Jason Gibson, production manager for Ringling's Red Unit and a former soldier, (left) goes over last-minute details with Andre McClain before the show begins Feb. 10 in Atlanta. McClain hosts the All-Access Preshow, where ticket holders are invited to get a ringside seat to a miniversion of some acts. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

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"Every day, I sit in the seats (and) I watch the show ... and just the reaction of the kids, that's what really keeps me going," said the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey production manager recently when the circus visited here. "We travel the country and entertain people for a living. I really have a blast doing it."

For four years, however, his life involved uniforms, drills and his job as a Patriot missile crewmember with Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, in Bitburg, Germany. Gibson was preparing to separate from the Army and pondering his civilian career when he saw an advertisement that piqued his interest.

"I love music, and I saw an ad for Fullsail, this school in Orlando," the former specialist said. "They taught recording engineering, and I was thinking I'd be a soundman."

A call to the school from Germany got the ball rolling. He attended Fullsail for a year after separating from the military.

That experience led him to run away with the circus. He's worked for Ringling for the past nine years and loves it, he said. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't occasionally miss his past.

"There are times I (miss the military), but at the same time, I'm having so much fun doing this and I couldn't think of anything else I'd want to do," Gibson said.

It's these sentiments that make him appreciate Ringling's teaming with the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program designed to recognize citizens' support for servicemembers and their families.

Ringling has saluted the nation's men and women in uniform for years, a circus official said. Joining America Supports You as a corporate team member in December solidified the circus's many efforts into one program. One facet of the program is reduced ticket prices on opening night in each city. Anyone holding a Defense Department identification card gets half off an already reduced rate available to the general public.

"It's fantastic," Gibson said of the partnership with America Supports You. "It makes sense. Instead of always dwelling on what's happening overseas -- Dad's gone and all the negativity about that -- we can have something positive."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJason Gibson, production manager for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Red Unit and a former soldier, makes sure the Feb. 10 show in Atlanta goes off as smoothly as possible. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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