By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - Lori Barber has performed for thousands during her seven years as a Radio City Rockette, but her experience Tuesday afternoon went down as one of the most memorable of her life, she said.
She and fellow Rockette Audrey Douglass visited Fort Hood Tuesday, seeing off about 220 soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team as they departed for Iraq. Units leaving included the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment; brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company and Security Transition Teams.
The Rockettes were in Austin making appearances to promote the upcoming Radio City Christmas Spectacular tour. The University of Texas Performing Arts Center will host the family-friendly show, which runs from Dec. 17 to 31.
Douglass is an Austin native and has visited Killeen before, but Tuesday was her first time on post. She has been a Rockette for two years. Barber is from Pittsburgh and it was her first visit to the area.
Wearing matching Santa costumes that make appearances in their shows, Barber and Douglass stood outside Larkin Terminal as soldiers filed past them and toward the airplane that would carry them to the Middle East. The women got smiles, shy glances, handshakes and a few hugs as the soldiers departed.
It was an amazing opportunity, Barber said. It was surreal to see a line of soldiers snaking its way from the terminal, out on the tarmac and to the plane, Douglass said.
Douglass' grandfather served in the Army and Barber's father served in the Army. Barber said it was personally gratifying to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what her father went though.
Several women in uniform walked past the Rockettes and the pair were amazed to see the courage they - and all the deploying soldiers - displayed, Barber said.
"I can't put words to how heroic they are," she added.
Douglass said each soldier she talked to had pride in what they did, and interacting with them was humbling.
Obviously, "we can't thank them enough," Barber said, adding later that people should do more for men and women in uniform since they risk so much.
After the plane was loaded, the Rockettes visited with soldiers from the division's honor guard. They compared clothes - agreeing that Santa outfits trimmed in faux fur and traditional wool cavalry uniforms were unsuitable for the afternoon temperatures - before comparing high kicks, the Rockettes' signature move.
The dancers on Tuesday also visited the 1st Cavalry's Horse Detachment and an Army Community Service center where they met with military children.
For more on the Rockettes or the Radio City Christmas Spectacular tour, go to www.radiocitychristmas.com. Read more about the brigade's deployment in today's Fort Hood Herald.