Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
Saturday, July 24, 2010 | 5:06 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
Former Lt. Dan Choi, an Iraq war veteran and leading activist for military gay rights, gave his West Point ring to Sen. Harry Reid today during an emotional meeting at The Rio.
As Reid delivered a keynote address to Netroots Nation, a gathering of politically progressive bloggers and activists, Choi passed his blue-stoned West Point ring up to the senator.
Choi, who has lobbied for years for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" mandate, found out Thursday he was being honorably discharged from the Army National Guard because he is gay. His dismissal takes effect Thursday.
"He earned this ring," Reid said to the crowd of about 2,000 bloggers watching the exchange. Reid tried to return the ring to Choi, but Choi refused it.
Instead, Choi jumped to his feet to salute Reid.
"When the bill is signed, I will return it to him," Reid promised, after hugging Choi.
Choi said he decided to give Reid his ring last night.
"I was thinking about what my life is about," Choi explained. "I felt I didn't have anything. My career went away. My memories are tarnished, stripped away. I felt I had nothing, but I had my ring and I had promises."
Choi first met Reid last year backstage at a political event at Paris Hotel and Casino. Reid promised then he would repeal Don't Ask, Don't tell by the end of the year. That didn't happen.
Choi said his ring now represents a new promise.
"It's a promise that I'm going to hold him accountable to keep his promise," Choi said. "No one can do it any more than he can. He's the most powerful senator."
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.