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Army soldier show set to knock 'em dead

By Ed Brock

Fresh from a performance at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the cast of the 2003 Army Soldier Show is presenting a patriotic extravaganza for Clayton County residents tonight.

The cast, all active duty soldiers, will take the stage at the Clayton County Schools Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. for a free show that will include a spectrum of musical performances ranging from country songs and show tunes to an American Indian hoop dance. It will be their 14th of 111 shows planned this year at 54 military installations and three countries, said the show's road manager Staff Sgt. Chris McPhaul.

"We're just at the beginning of the season," McPhaul said.

The soldiers in the show not only sing and dance, they set up the 20 tons of equipment needed for each show. The theme for this year's show is "Legacy."

"The concept of Legacy is everything we've done in the past is relevant today," McPhaul said. "Nothing has really changed."

This year's show is also one of a series of events leading up to Friday's celebration of the Army's 228th birthday at Army Garrison Fort McPherson in Atlanta. The last time the show came to Clayton County was 2001.

That show played to a capacity crowd anyway, as they always do, McPhaul said, but the performance has changed in the post Sept. 11 world.

"We've had more people coming up and giving more thanks after the show," McPhaul said. "And we've put on a more patriotic show since Sept. 11."

Prior to the show, re-enactors dressed in uniforms from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War will be present, Fort McPherson spokesman Ron Morton said.

The motto, mission and philosophy were formed by Sgt. Israel Beilin, also known as Irving Berlin, during World War I and the first show, "Yip Yip Yaphank," appeared on Broadway in 1918, according to Morton.

In 1983 the modern version of the show was formed from several different soldier shows in various Army commands.