October 21, 2005
- Weatherford Democrat
By Danie M. Huffman
As the All American Cowgirl Chicks rode into the Pasadena Rodeo Arena, the crowd stood to its feet, removed their hats and paid respect with honor.
The Chicks rode in on 18 horses, carrying the Marine, Texas and American flags, which shot fireworks from the tops of the poles.
“Arlington,” sung by Trace Adkins, played solemnly over the public address system as tears began to fall.
Their performance, with Olympic-level skills and tricks, was dedicated to Marine Lance Corporal Phillip George who died in Afghanistan earlier this year.
Trish Carter, head drill coach of the Chicks, had the Pasadena rodeo booked for a 10-day performance when she heard of Phillip's story.
“I read in the paper where a local Marine was killed in Afghanistan,” Carter said. “He was a third-generation military service man.”
She said when the Chicks first decided to dedicate the ride they didn't know if they could make it happen.
“So we contacted the [Marine military] branch to see if it would be possible to meet with the family and dedicate the performance to him and his family,” Carter said. “We dedicated our opening performance and rode in honor of him. He would have been 23 on Sept. 3.”
After 911, Carter said his sister, Sara, told her a Marine is all he dreamed of being.
“He wanted to serve his country and help people,” Sara told Carter. “After 911, it just made him want to join even more. It's constant danger over there.”
Before the performance, the Chicks met with George's father, Ret. Marine Carson George, a Vietnam veteran, who was in Iraq when his son was killed.
George works for Kellogg Brown and Root, a division of Halliburton Oil Drilling Company. He was released from his duties, met the casket in Germany and escorted his son's body back to Pasadena. Carson George was redeployed to Iraq Oct. 17 for work.
Phillip's grandfather served in WWII, and also met the Chicks with his mother, Penny George, his brother, Aaron, and Sara. Penny was holding a photograph of Phillip as she approached the Chicks.
Jill Carolan, mother of Cowgirl Chick Cristan Carolan, didn't think it would be possible to meet with the family.
“The most gratifying thing of the whole trip was meeting them,” Jill Carolan said. “As soon as we made eye contact, we saw his photo. Penny immediately presented it so we would know who we be riding for and have a visual of her son. She wanted us to know him. She kept the picture and never let go of it. She had his dog tags around her neck. You could just tell that they were very proud of his sacrifice.
“Simple people like the George's sacrificed their son for our freedom. It was a comfort to know that and it was hard to keep our tears back. We are truly compassionate with what we do. It hit home with all the girls, he would have been 23, most of the girls are young and he was in their age group. That it could have been someone they grew up with or graduated with. It meant the world to us.”
Cristan Carolan, 17, has been riding as a Chick for about six months. She said riding for George helped her ride harder with more determination.
“To think about how much he's done for our country - it helped us pull together as a team and ride our hearts out just for him,” Cristan Carolan said. “Meeting the family - I felt guilty to see the sadness in their eyes. But then I saw the happiness in their eyes when we rode for Phillip.”
Cowgirl Chick Erin Mullis has been a Chick for more than a year, and said paying tribute to George gave her the drive to give 100 percent in her performance.
“I know Phillip gave 100 percent of his life so I could be here and ride,” Mullis said. “The team rode together. We all felt the same when we looked into each others eyes and had to do our best to ride for the family.”
Jill Carolan said meeting the family added so much more emotion to the ride for the Chicks.
“We brought the pace down just a little to keep the focus on him and the military branch flags,” she said. “It was great that we got to meet them. I sat with them during the performance. The announcer introduced the family and the crowd was very warm in their response to the family.”
Vicky Field, who represents military service members who have been severely injured, under the department of defense, works with families who have lost or had a wounded family member and helps them with rehabilitation and insurance matters.
Field contacted Carolan, asking for more information about the Chicks and their ride. Carolan sent Field a video of their ride and word reached the Pentagon of their tribute.
Field contacted the Pentagon and gave them data on the Chicks and their tribute.
“She wanted more information on us so they could continue the chain of honoring America's fallen heroes,” Carolan said. “She thought it was a great idea. We showed her video of the girls in action and she was very impressed with our ceremony and military tribute to Phillip.”
“Anything that we can do as a community to support our heroes and families of lost service members is vitally important and necessary,” Field said. “We have a Tsunami in our own country, and our service members are out there risking their lives so we can enjoy our everyday freedom. It's important to let their family members know that people care.”
For more information on donations, programs or support for wounded or service members who have lost their lives and their families, log onto www.operationforeverfree.org, or contact Vicky Field at (817) 691-4030, or e-mail email@example.com.