America Supports You: Game Show Honors Servicemembers
By Air Force Maj. Edwina Walton
Special to American Forces Press Service
DALLAS, Oct. 23, 2008 Despite having an air show the next day to prepare for, Air Force Master Sgt. Robin Brooks decided to play the odds of becoming the “next contestant on ‘The Price is Right,’” and it paid off.
"Having my named called was music to my ears," said Brooks, first sergeant for the Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s air demonstration squadron, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Brooks was part of an audience made up of soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines, military retirees, disabled veterans and family members for a special taping of the CBS daytime game show Sept. 10.
"This is an awesome opportunity to represent the U.S. Air Force and the Thunderbirds,” she said of the "Salute to the Military" episode that is scheduled to air on Veterans Day. “I wouldn't have missed this opportunity for the world."
The show’s host, comedian Drew Carey, was enthusiastic about hosting Brooks and the rest of the audience members for the special installment of the program, created in conjunction with the Defense Department’s Entertainment Media and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.
"I think it's important for everyone to show our support to the servicemembers," said Carey, a former Marine reservist. "We sponsored shows like this before 9/11. And we've even sponsored shows specifically for each the four services in the past. I only wish I could do more."
Carey graciously assigned credit to his production team, but Mike Richards, co-executive producer, said the team had very little to do with it.
"The idea came from Drew,” Richards said. “He was very involved in how to lay out this show, down to the prizes being awarded and games selected."
"It was really important for us to make the special 'extra special.' We wanted gifts that were specific to military servicemembers, and we didn't want anyone to leave empty-handed,” said Syd Vinnedge, executive producer. “Thus, we are grateful for the support AAFES has given this show. Without them, we couldn't have made it happen. This has definitely been a 'win-win' for all."
AAFES provided six $1,000 gift certificates for online shopping at aafes.com and six 1,000-minute phone cards for the contestants who made it on stage. Additionally, everyone in the audience received 10-percent-discount coupons.
"When Drew explained the concept of the military salute show and wanting to provide gifts specifically for the military, I immediately thought of AAFES," said Barbra Brennan, senior merchandizing representative, CBS Promotional Placement and Awards Department. "I heard about the phone cards from a newspaper commentary addressing how any American could help the troops overseas during the holiday season a few years ago.
"I even checked the program out and was able to go to the aafes.com home page to purchase phone cards for my brother, Marine Maj. Bradley Brennan, while he was deployed to Iraq,” she said. “It was a little gesture, but it meant a lot to be able to hear from him on a continuous basis."
Phone cards and gift cards can be purchased at the AAFES Web site for a specific person or any servicemember. It’s much more cost-effective than sending packages through the mail, she added, noting that whether you know someone personally or not, a little bit of home makes a world of difference for deployed servicemembers.
While AAFES handled the prizes, Vince Ogilvie, deputy special assistant for entertainment media at the Pentagon, ensured protocol was followed and every service was well represented. The event required Defense Department approval due to the magnitude of support required.
“Drew has always showcased the military in a positive light in the past, and we were more than happy to assist him with this project, because it also helps highlight DoD's America Supports You program." America Supports You communicates citizen support to the nation’s servicemembers and their families.
(Air Force Maj. Edwina Walton serves at the headquarters of Army and Air Force Exchange Service.)