Louisville Joins America Supports You on Eve of Festival
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
LOUISVILLE, Ky., April 21, 2006 Kentucky's largest city today formally joined the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program on the eve of "Thunder Over Louisville," an annual air show and festival that culminates with the world's largest fireworks display.
Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, prepares to throw the ceremonial first pitch at Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, Ky., April 21. Louisville Mayor Jerry E. Abramson proclaimed the day as "America Supports You Day," and the city provided free admission for servicemembers to the game between the Louisville Bats and the Syracuse Sky Chiefs of baseball's International League. Louisville formally became an America Supports You partner earlier in the day. Photo by John D. Banusiewicz
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
America Supports You spotlights the efforts of the American people, the corporate sector and municipalities to show their support for men and women serving in the nation's armed forces.
At a morning news conference, Louisville Mayor Jerry E. Abramson presented Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, with a proclamation he had signed declaring today "America Supports You Day" here.
"As we celebrate the official start of this community's two-week party, the Kentucky Derby Festival, I think it's important that we remember that we have a lot of men and women -- the troops of the U.S. military -- who are serving right now overseas," Abramson said.
The mayor noted that America Supports You comprises more than 200 grassroots organizations and many corporate partners throughout the United States. He also cited Louisville's longstanding and active support for the armed forces.
"Our city built the Patriots Peace Memorial along River Road," he said. "Our city adopted a unit over at Fort Campbell when they went over to Iraq." Louisville's police department gives hiring preference to military veterans, he added, and plans were announced on Veterans Day for a memorial to servicemembers who lost their lives in the Persian Gulf War, the war on terror, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Now with this partnership, we're once again asking our residents to step forward and support the men and women in uniform -- our troops," he said.
Abramson served in the Army from 1969 to 1971, and his parents served in World War II -- his mother in the Women's Army Corps and his father in the Army.
The mayor said the "Support Our Troops" link on the city's Web site, www.louisvilleky.gov, provides the opportunity to send e-mail messages of support to servicemembers in Iraq or Afghanistan. "Or folks can send a letter or a care package, or even donate tickets for events for their families who are left behind in our community."
To symbolize the spirit of support, the family of a deployed Kentucky National Guard soldier received free VIP tickets to Thunder Over Louisville from show producer Wayne Hettinger. Tammy Buechele, wife of Master Sgt. William K. Buechele of the 198th Military Police Battalion, will have VIP access to the day's events with the couple's four children, her mother and her brother-in-law. Her husband is deployed to Afghanistan.
Hettinger, known as "Mr. Thunder" in Louisville, told Tammy Buechele that showing Louisville's pride for its country is a big part of the annual festival. "And we certainly cannot come and play with our families and friends without what your family is providing in making that possible for all of us," he said. "And to you and the men and women that are serving so that our families can enjoy a great day and enjoy the freedom of this country, and their efforts to provide freedom throughout the world, we all thank you.
"So this is terribly insignificant," he said, "but it's certainly with the hearts of our entire community."
Tammy Buechele, a military veteran herself, has attended Thunder Over Louisville only once before -- stationed on a barn roof as part of the security detail.
"It's pretty awesome -- really fabulous," she said before this morning's news conference. "It's good to see the community come together like this to show their support."
After accepting the America Supports You Day proclamation from the mayor, Barber thanked the city for its long history of support for the armed forces and noted that America Supports You is designed "to connect the American people who want to support our military directly to our men and women in the military."
"The America Supports You program will work with the city to find new ways and additional ways to support our men and women in the military," Barber said. In addition to offering its own ways to support the troops, Louisville's Web site also will link to the America Supports You site, www.americasupportsyou.mil, from its home page.
Barber said visitors to Thunder Over Louisville will be able to write their own messages of support to servicemembers on post cards at the festival's America Supports You booth on the city's riverfront. She and the mayor today signed the first post card in the campaign.
Barber noted that the America Supports You site provides two-way communication. Americans can post messages of support, and servicemembers can tell Americans how much they appreciate their support. A Louisville native serving in the military posted a message of gratitude on the America Supports You site, Barber said, and she read his message:
"I'm currently serving overseas in the Air Force. It really means a lot to me to be able to read all the postings you put on this site. When I got to reading this, it brought tears to my eyes from all the messages of support that are out there. You don't know how much I appreciate what you all are doing to support us. I will be spending some time in the desert soon, and will be visiting this site when I start feeling down. It is stuff like this that keeps me going from day to day. All of you supporting us keeps us going. I also think of you and pray for you daily. I just wanted to say thanks for your support and prayers. I miss you and can't wait to get home soon."
As part of America Supports You Day, the city is offering free admission to military people to attend tonight's game between the Louisville Bats, the top minor league affiliate of Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds, and the Syracuse Sky Chiefs, of the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Barber was scheduled to throw the ceremonial first pitch.