More in the air than just football
By Staff Sgt. Stacy Gault, 171st ARW/PA
/ Published December 22, 2008
November 16, 2008 -- As country recording artist Laura Bryna stood proudly on the 50 yard line at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field Sunday, November 16th, there was more than football in the air.
The sell-out crowd of over 62,000 Steelers fans roared as Bryna paid tribute to the military with her hit single "Hometown Heroes" followed by the National Anthem and a 171st Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker flyby.
There was some doubt that the weather would cooperate with the finely tuned fly-over. A scant eighty-five seconds was the allotted time for the refueling tanker to reach the stadium from the established holding point up the Monongahela River once the anthem started.
As snow swirled throughout the stadium, 171st pilot, Captain Jason Figley, said "it looked bleak at times if the flyover was going to happen. But for a brief period, the clouds lifted, opening a window of opportunity for the tanker to fly along the river and over the stadium to showcase the rare spectacle."
A Nashville newcomer, Bryna was chosen as the voice of the new, multifaceted advertising campaign for the Air National Guard in May 2008. She calls it a "coming out party" for the Guard, hoping her involvement educates the public about the Guard's mission here and around the world.
Joining Bryna on the field were members of the 171 ARW and Titusville VFW Honor Guards presenting the colors for the day. Additionally, a local veteran who had served in each U.S. war, lined the field signifying America's long military history, providing as a fitting backdrop for the "Hometown Hero's" salute.
Honored to be on the field with current and past service members, Bryna said she feels pride every time she sings the National Anthem. "You're standing on a field with people who are willing to give their lives for their country, and here I am living my dream because of them."
"People don't realize where the Air Guard is," Bryna explained, adding, "to me, you guys are everywhere. You're in Afghanistan, you're in Iraq, you're here doing border patrol, in California putting out fires, you're in Galveston helping with hurricanes."
The singer was selected after the Air Guard conducted an exhaustive search for a voice and personality they felt would support and align to their branding goals. An Air Guard representative saw Bryna perform songs from her new CD, "Trying To Be Me," at a CD launch event in January.
Throughout 2008, Bryna has visited numerous ANG bases, including the 118th Airlift Wing, Nashville, Tenn. where she filmed her "Hometown Heroes" video on top of a C-130. In her travels, Bryna has gained an understanding of the Guard and its culture.
"The one thing that you all share, is that constant respect and love and pride you have for each other, your country, and the people you are protecting. It's actually incredible to be an outsider looking in; to watch that is unbelievable."