Circus entertains, honors military families

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chyenne A. Adams
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs
The military and the circus have a lot in common.  They both have people from around the nation and assets from around the world. Both are highly trained units that perform sometimes unimaginable feats and handle unspeakable logistical details in carrying out their mission. And, most importantly, both share an important priority: children.

On March 26, this priority was at the forefront when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey honored military families at a performance of its traveling circus "Zing Zang Zoom" at a performance at George Mason University's Patriot Center here. Normally, a military family member is chosen as guest ringmaster as part of April's Month of the Military Child. This year an entire family served as guest ringmasters in observance of Year of the Air Force Family.

Master Sgt. Cameron Rogers, the Air Force District of Washington UH-1N helicopter program manager, and his family represented military families around the world as the circus' guest ringmasters. The 19-year Air Force veteran who just returned from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan said he was thrilled to be able to share this special time with his wife, Maggie, and children, 10-year-old Sam and 5-year-old Laine.

The Air Force's top enlisted Airman acknowledged the Rogers' presence and the circus' tribute to military families.

"It's good to see the Rogers family here at Ringling Brothers...and it's good that this organization would highlight the United States Air Force and the entire military," said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Roy.

Chief Roy said military appreciation events like this are important because they highlight the sacrifices made by military families around the world and bring public awareness to their service.

"(It's important to know) the military families' service to our nation's defense and the sacrifices these families endure every single day," he said. "It's also important for the rest of America to fully understand and, hopefully, appreciate that."

He also mentioned the hope that, even with the Year of the Air Force Family coming to an end, that the idea behind the campaign will sustain.

"Truly, our priorities never change," Chief Roy said.  "We're here to take care of our servicemembers and their families. This official designation as the Year of the Air Force Family helped us focus our appreciation, foster a stronger sense of community and heighten the relationships between our service members and the local communities that support our military installations. Now our hope is that this year will never end and that the thoughts and intentions behind it will endure and sustain."

The military made a strong showing in support of that goal, with the audience standing for the national anthem while a two-ton Asian elephant circled the floor and the Military District of Washington Joint Color Guard presented the colors.

"I wasn't at all sure what to expect tonight," said Airman 1st Class Jacob Proffer, a member of the Air Force Honor Guard. "But it has been so much fun interacting with the kids and getting to represent the Air Force to all the former military and veterans who are here tonight."

His Navy counterpart on the joint color guard agreed.

"I'm always honored to be a military representative and remind people of how we help everyone in America by our service," said Seaman Brooklyn Carpenter, from the Navy Honor Guard. "But this is my first circus, and it's very exciting to be here and see the animals, the performers and the children. It's all amazing."

The crowd included a large audience of retirees, active-duty service members, government civilians and families who watched performances from clowns, elephants, tigers, dogs, zebras, horses, acrobats, trapeze artists and a soaring performance by a human cannonball.

"I am so proud to be working for (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey) knowing that they honor families like this" said Tina Miser, human cannonball and former Air Force reservist.  "Every time we're near a military installation, the company does a great job of inviting the military and I'm always saying 'include me!"

Mrs. Miser said she has nothing but good memories from her six years military service and said it was a very hard decision to make between remaining with the military or "running away with the circus."

Either way, the performer spends a lot of time on the road, with the circus travelling around the world for 46 weeks each year.

"Frankly, we just love the military and appreciate our close relationship with all the military services," said Art Swift, event coordinator for the circus' public relations. "It's important to us to give back to those who protect our freedom, and it's really important to make sure kids are having fun."

The circus' military appreciation night accomplished that goal, according to the military children in attendance. Chief Roy's 10-year-old twin boys, Caleb and Colby, said they were honored to be at the event with their dad and especially "excited to see the well-trained elephants."

Guest Ringmaster Maggie Rogers said her children's favorite part was the specially trained dogs who performed tricks on two legs, including jumping rope and diving from an elevated platform. Her husband noted the fun everyone seemed to have.

"There's a smile on everybody's faces tonight," Sergeant Rogers said. "On behalf of military children and families everywhere, thank you."