By JimiBeth Myers
Behind the Scenes
Barrel Racers Honor Fallen Soldiers on Military Night at the WNFR
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo barrel racers wore specially made dog tags with the name of a fallen female soldier through the Honor Tags for Heroes program. Reigning World Champion Barrel Racer Nellie Miller said, “This is a great way to pay tribute so that their families get recognition for their loved one. It’s good that we can do what we can because these soldiers are so important for our country.”
Special dog tags representing the barrel racer and the fallen female soldier that they are riding in honor of at the WNFR
Candian Barrel Racer Carman Pozzoban has an especially personal connection to Military Night. “I lost a boyfriend in Afghanistan. So I know the time and strength that it takes to get through that kind of broken heart. I’m a spiritual person, so riding with these dog tags gives me extra strength out there.”
For Stevi Hillman from Weatherford, Texas this is the third year to ride under the Tags of Honor program at the WNFR. However, her appreciation for the military goes back even further. “My grandpa was a military guy and my family lived in Colorado Springs where the Air Force base is, so I feel connected to our military. I feel so happy to be able to wear these dog tags. Wearing them really brings it home for me and makes this so personal. I’m so very thankful for those who serve to protect our country,” Stevi explained.
Jessica Routier was decked out in camouflage and wearing her Honor Tags for Round 7, Military Appreciate Night at the WNFR
Hailey Kinsel won Round 7, which is always Military Appreciation Night. “I rode for Army CPL Rachel L. Hugo. She passed away in 2007. She was a medic in the army. She was serving our country when she passed away. It is nice to carry on her honor.”
Kinsel’s mother made an even more personal connection for Hailey. “My mom actually reached out to Rachel’s mom and let her know that we were running tonight, and she said she was so excited and asked us to keep her informed. I was so happy to get to tell her that I had a special angel with me in the arena,” Hailey told.
Ivy Conrado wore her honor tags with a vintage rodeo shirt. It was worn by Celie Whitcomb-Ray, who competed in this same shirt at the 1983 National Finals Rodeo
TACI BETTIS IS RUNNING FOR ARMY PFC. LORI ANN PIESTEWA
The first Native American woman to die in combat was also the first female military death of the Iraq War.
KELLY BRUNER IS RUNNING FOR ARMY SPC. HILDA I. CLAYTON
Clayton, a visual information specialist, was part of a training mission certifying Afghan forces on mortar operations.
IVY CONRADO IS RUNNING FOR ARMY STAFF SGT. CYNTHIA R. TAYLOR
Taylor served as a wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company with the 101st Airborne Division.
TAMMY FISCHER IS RUNNING FOR ARMY SGT. MAJ. BARBARALIEN BANKS
Banks was stationed at Schofield Barracks, HI, since May 2003 and was a senior food management supervisor assigned to the 25th Infantry Division.
STEVI HILLMAN IS RUNNING FOR ARMY SGT. AMANDA OLDER DOWNING
Iraq veteran Downing fought hard against cancer. Her patriotism spurred her to enlist in the Army.
HAILEY KINSEL IS RUNNING FOR ARMY CPL. RACHAEL L. HUGO
Hugo was treating another soldier when insurgents attacked her unit using an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire in Bayji, Iraq.
LISA LOCKHART IS RUNNING FOR ARMY SGT. DEVIN A. SNYDER
Sgt Devin Snyder was lost on June 4, 2011 by a roadside bomb in Laghman province, Afg. when insurgents attacked her unit with an IED.
NELLIE MILLER IS RUNNING FOR AIR FORCE SENIOR AIRMAN ELIZABETH A. LONCKI
Loncki disarmed more than 20 explosive devices during her service on an explosive ordnance disposal team in Iraq.
AMBER MOORE IS RUNNING FOR ARMY CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 BILLIE JEAN GRINDER
Tennessee Army National Guard pilot Billie Jean Grinder was killed when her helicopter made a "hard landing" in northern Iraq.
TRACY NOWLIN IS RUNNING FOR ARMY SPC. BEVERLY S. CLARK
Clark was one of 13 Army Reservists who died Feb. 25, 1991, when an Iraqi Scud missile slammed into the unit's makeshift barracks during the Persian Gulf War.
BRITTANY POZZI TONOZZI IS RUNNING FOR ARMY PFC. SAM W. HUFF
Pfc. Huff died in Baghdad from injuries she received when the Humvee she was driving was hit by a roadside bomb.
CARMAN POZZOBON IS RUNNING FOR CAPTAIN NICHOLA KATHLEEN SARAH GODDARD
In 2006, Capt. Nichola Goddard became Canada's first female soldier to die in combat. It was a death that shocked a nation.
JESSICA ROUTIER IS RUNNING FOR ARMY SPC. ASHLEY SIETSEMA
Army Specialist Ashley Sietsema died in Kuwait City, Kuwait when the vehicle she was riding in rolled over as they transported injured soldiers.
JESSICA TELFORD IS RUNNING FOR ARMY PFC. HOLLY J. MCGEOGH
McGeogh, from the Detroit suburb of Taylor, was a light-truck mechanic assigned to Company A, 4th Forward Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, from Ft Hood, TX.
KYLIE WEAST IS RUNNING FOR ARMY SPC. SARINA N. BUTCHER
Butcher is the first female OK Nat'l Guard soldier to be killed during wartime and also is the youngest Guard member to die in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.