Ringling Bros. Joins 'America Supports You' in Washington
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 30, 2006 Corporate support for the nation's troops means a lot, especially to their families, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here last night as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus began its annual series of performances in the nation's capital.
America Supports You welcomed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a corporate member during a kickoff ceremony. Michael Richter, a clown with the circus, poses in front of an ASY sign before the show in downtown Washington, D.C., March 29. Photo by Paul X. Rutz
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers was guest of honor at the circus, along with 15 children of troops deployed overseas and six wounded veterans from the National Naval Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Md.
Myers spoke during the kickoff ceremony announcing Ringling Bros.' membership in "America Supports You," a Defense Department program highlighting grassroots and corporate support for the nation's troops and their families.
"We know this is a big commitment, and it can't come at a better time, when we have so many folks deployed around the world, trying to keep us free and safe and secure," he said, before motioning toward the children standing around him. "The families of our military members also serve, and these folks represent those who are serving."
Myers invited the crowd of thousands attending the circus at Verizon Center to visit www.AmericaSupportsYou.mil and find out more about how they could help support America's troops.
Nicole Feld, the show's co-producer, welcomed Myers and other distinguished guests. She said the circus is proud to join many volunteer groups, charitable organizations, local governments, and other corporations in communicating their support for the nation's men and women in uniform.
Feld gave Myers a scroll and specially designed ringmaster top hat and turned the crowd's attention to an elephant wearing a specially designed extra-large dog tag, which she said symbolized the circus' corporate commitment to the ASY program.
"Please accept these items on behalf of the men and women in service and know that all of you are always welcome at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey," Feld said.
Cpl. Estevan Diaz, a wounded Marine waiting for surgery at Bethesda, said he was proud to come and be part of the event.
"It means a lot to us," he said. "It's just the act of them helping us out like that. It shows a lot of support."
The first act of the show included elephants, horses, zebras, acrobats and clowns, as well as Brian and Tina Miser, a married couple of human cannonballs who blasted out of a specially designed cannon simultaneously. Both have been shot more than 5,000 times.
Brian said the couple's fathers retired after long Air Force careers -- Brian's father as a crew chief, and Tina's as a colonel. Tina was an Air Force reservist, keeping flight records for pilots, before resigning to travel professionally with Ringling Bros.
Luke Brechtelsbauer, now in his second season traveling with the group, plays a Scottish clown. He said he was happy the circus has decided to support the troops, and he personally is prepared to do more. "If you want me to support the troops, send me over to Iraq to put on a show," he said. "Now that would be support for the troops, there."