Servicemembers Sing National Anthem at 90th Indy 500
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 28, 2006 With the stands crowded for the 90th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," five servicemembers stood atop the Victory Podium to sing the national anthem before the race today.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Lisa Taylor, Army Sgt. Jennifer Castle, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Landon Crissup, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Remayl L. Shaffer-Hardy, and Air Force Staff Sgt. E. Justin Allen talk with local reporters in Indianapolis before the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Staff Sgt. E. Justin Allen, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Landon Crissup, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Remayl L. Shaffer-Hardy, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Lisa Taylor, and Army Sgt. Jennifer Castle sang the national anthem.
"(Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and the Department of Defense has a long-standing relationship and, through the support of America Supports You, we were asked to come and sing the national anthem," Shaffer-Hardy said. "It's a great honor, and I'm just happy they asked me to come back and to be representing the men and women of the service."
Allen and Shaffer-Hardy were here for an encore performance, both having performed here the previous year, as well.
More than 300,000 fans reinforced that feeling of honor with a roar of appreciation comparable to the sound of the 33 racecar engines that revved up moments later.
"It's very overwhelming to stand up there at first. When you start to sing and you can see 300,000 people stand up and take their hats off, that's pretty amazing," Allen said. "Then when you finish, and the noise is just absolutely deafening of applause and cheering, it really makes you feel appreciated.
"It lets you know that everyone out there appreciates what we do, and not just us, but the people we represent," he added.
The performance had added meaning for Allen and Shaffer-Hardy, both native Hoosiers. "It does have a little special meaning because I'm used to being out there and watching all of this and taking it all in," Allen said.
The others, new to the spectacle that is Indy in May, agreed it was not only a great honor, but also a humbling experience.
"It's just a huge honor," Castle said. "That's really all I can say. It's just an enormous honor. I'm just so happy to be here."
Having just met yesterday, the five servicemembers only had one rehearsal with the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band, Crissup said. And while they all have performed the national anthem at other events, they agreed the Indy 500 casts a big shadow.
"There's nothing that can compare to this in scale or size," Taylor said. "No one will ever have the opportunity to sing for this many people in one place at one time, let alone the thousands of people who are watching on TV.
"I think this definitely ranks right at the top," she added.