Saturday, April 05, 2008
by J. Michael Moore, Atlantafalcons.com Managing Editor
Sunday - 03/09/08
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders traveled overseas last month to entertain American servicemen and women.
Performing abroad for the military has become an annual event for the cheerleaders, who have sent show troupes to Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Puerto Rico, Egypt, Bosnia, Kosovo, Japan and Guam. Last month the cheerleaders visited outposts in Italy, Portugal, Greece and Egypt. According to Cheerleader coordinator Chato Waters, the show troupe was selected to perform by Armed Forces Entertainment.
"They book entertainment to go out to various places where troops are stationed," said Waters, who has coordinated cheerleader performances for four seasons. "Hundreds of groups submit their paper work to have an opportunity to entertain."
Fifteen cheerleaders and Freddie Falcon traveled to bases performing a variety shows featuring skits and music.
"We have a one-hour show with singing, dancing, twirling, tumbling -- lots of crowd interaction and crowd involvement," Waters said. "It has all genres of music from country to hip-hop."
Unlike trips into a war zone -- which have been scheduled in the past -- this tour featured a chance to interact with entire families on base. The group also took a scheduled off day to perform on a U.S. ship in port.
"They do it for morale," said Waters when asked about the program. "They have not only entertainment groups but different activities to keep the troops engaged as well as their families.
"There's a lot of physical activity but we also just sit and talk to them and see what life is like out there. It's amazing to see how well adjusted (the children) are. It's refreshing, actually. I've never run into a situation where there are kids that say they want to go home. They're looking forward to the next stop their parents will travel to."
In all, the cheerleaders visited four countries in 14 days via 15 airline flights. The team performed nine times, but it was the performance on ship in Cantania that provided many lasting memories.
"It was an amazing experience," Waters said. "As you can imagine, this particular group had been at sea for six months. They hadn't really had a chance to see their family and be off the ship much. It was just as rewarding for us to be there. They were excited to have us."
Look for more morale-boosting performances in future seasons, but some team members, like Cheerleader Laura, will be leaving the squad.
That made this trip extra special
"It was difficult to leave my family for two weeks, but it was the most amazing experience of my life," Laura said. "This opportunity was the perfect way to end my four seasons as an Atlanta Falcons Cheerleader. I would absolutely do it all over again."