Army Field Band Soldier-Musicians make sweet music together
June 26, 2009
- Army NCO's Soldier together and sing together
What you are about to read will sound a bit fictionalAca,!"something born from imagination.
What you are about to read is a bit out of the ordinary, for it takes <i>special</i> people to pull it off.
We are, after all, talking about The U.S. Army Field BandAca,!"an Army <i>special</i> bandAca,!"whose noncommissioned officers must successfully pass strict entrance requirements, a band typified by musicians with high-level skills, a band whose members travel more than 100 days a year.
This is the tale of Soldier-Musicians married to other Soldier-Musicians. They are servicemembers who must juggle numerous facets of life, together, all the while leading very public lives ... lives of performers Aca,!A| performers who promote goodwill and foster community relations by telling the Army story through music.
What is awe-inspiring is the way in which these Soldier-Musicians conduct themselves, both at home and at the Aca,!A"officeAca,!A? (the office being a stage or band hall), as individuals and as a team.
<b>1+1 = 3'</b>
Truly, there is no formula to relationships. One answer does not fit allAca,!"no single solution is right for every couple.
Marriage is not easy. It often requires much effort on the part of each individual in the relationship. And, when you throw in a third party that consumes most of the day, it becomes even more difficult, particularly when that third party is the United States Army.
Aca,!A"We genuinely appreciate each other and make every effort to not take one another for granted,Aca,!A? commented Master Sgt. Janet Hjelmgren when asked about how she and her husband, Sgt. Major Doug Cox, make their relationship work so well.
Both Hjelmgren and Cox perform with the SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus, the 29-member choral component of the Field Band.
They have been married nearly 20 years, and though they may not share the same last name, they do share a mutual admiration of one another.
Hjelmgren, with a sincere look upon her face, spelled out what she feels is a key factor to any successful relationship, Aca,!A"R-E-S-P-E-C-T.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"We consider each other, both in our personal and professional lives. I take his career as earnestly as I do my own, and he does the same for me,Aca,!A? she added.
Staff Sgt. Betsy Garcia believes that commitment plays a big role in the career and personal successes she and her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Mario Garcia, have experienced.
Aca,!A"Being a married active duty Soldier is challenging to say the least. My husband and I made a commitment to one another as well as a commitment to the Army.Aca,!A?
Mario interjected, Aca,!A"If you go into the situation realistically, with your eyes open to all of the potential obstacles, you can actually experience tremendous opportunities.Aca,!A?
Cox agreed, Aca,!A"Janet and I are as blessed as any couple could be. Serving together as colleagues in thousands of performances throughout the nation has offered us an immensely exciting lifestyle that is wonderfully fulfilling.Aca,!A?
The Garcias, both of whom perform with the chorus, also feel that laughter is important.
Aca,!A"I totally crashed his party,Aca,!A? Betsy jokingly remarked.
Aca,!A"Mario joined the SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus 6 years ago, and I have only been with the chorus for 3 years. Because he has been in the Army longer, he outranks me. He is a room commander, a distinction given to the senior person with whom a room is shared (Field Band Soldier-Musicians are required to have roommates when on tour). There are times when he threatens to hold an accountability formation for us when we check into our room,Aca,!A? she giggled.
Life in the Army, life in the Field Band, is what you make of it.
Aca,!A"It can be tough at times, but it is possible. We arenAca,!a,,ct the first couple to join the Army, and I suspect we wonAca,!a,,ct be the last,Aca,!A? Mario noted.
Apparently, many servicemembers agree, for it is not uncommon to see active duty military-married-to-military couples.
In fact, www.military.com cites approximately 84,000 such couples in the armed forces, each branch having some form of joint spouse program that attempts to station both servicemembers at the same installation or, at the very least, within 100 miles of one another.
As a dual military couple serving in the Field Band, the 100-mile radius is shattered Aca,!A| to some extent.
<b>Life is a highway Aca,!A| </b>
A certain tune comes to mind, Aca,!A"Together (Wherever We Go),Aca,!A? from the musical Gypsy, when one considers all the time these Soldier-Musicians share with one another.
They work together. They rehearse together. They do lunch together. They go home together. They eat dinner together. They hit the hay together.
Moreover, when the Field Band hits the road to tour America thirty days or more at a time, it is the same routine with an added bonus Aca,!A| more time together in more unforgiving conditions.
Instead of going home, they check into hotels. Instead of their own car, it is a huge bus that carries numerous other Soldier-Musicians, and instead of rehearsing in hour-long blocks, they perform two-hour shows accompanied by hours of setting up and tearing down equipment.
It is not a glamorous lifestyle.
Cox expounds on the impositions caused by life on the road.
Aca,!A"The touring routine constantly infringes on our privacy. As a married couple that shares leadership responsibilities in the same touring component, it is especially challenging. We perform a very public mission, but we try to safeguard, to the best of our ability, one anotherAca,!a,,cs privacy. We are very in tune to the constant demand for setting a proper example of a professional Soldier-Musician, both internally and externally. We try to honor that.Aca,!A?
Master Sgt. Laura Lesche, also with the chorus, suffers a different type of touring obstacle. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Steve Lesche, is a guitarist with the Jazz Ambassadors, the Field BandAca,!a,,cs jazz component. Performing in different components presents a different set of challenges, mostly when the groups have asynchronous tour schedules.
Aca,!A"Communication is fundamental to any relationship,Aca,!A? Laura said, and added, Aca,!A"It is not only essential for us, it is critical, particularly when we find ourselves physically separated for months at a time.Aca,!A?
Steve agrees and believes that making the effort can be hard when their schedules are so incompatible, but it is making the effort that makes it work.
Steve asked facetiously, Aca,!A"What lessens the pain of separation when the groups separately travel' More travel.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"Not only are Laura and I determined to talk to one another at least once a day, there are times when we go the extra mile, literally. We jump in the car or hop on a plane to visit one another,Aca,!A? he said.
<b>Bending but not breaking</b>
Flexibility has become a mantra for many of these Soldier-Musicians.
Aca,!A"During the course of our marriage, we have had to make difficult decisions and numerous reprioritizations. Some of those choices have become more difficult as we have progressed in our careers,Aca,!A? noted Cox.
Juggling two demanding careers and family obligations can often cause Soldiers to question the decision for both to remain on active duty, so keeping stress levels low, even when performing routine tasks, is vital.
Betsy proclaimed, Aca,!A"We try to be accommodating to one another and not box ourselves in when it comes to the traditional roles typically associated with that of husband and wife. There are times when I am the one cooking and paying the bills. Then, there are times when Mario assumes those responsibilities.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"We both feel it is important to give 100 percent to our family at home and to our family at the Field Band,Aca,!A? she added.
Cox echoed those sentiments but realizes that remaining stress-free is easier said than done.
Aca,!A"As senior NCOs, it is impossible to leave work at work. When weAca,!a,,cre not in rehearsal or tending to organizational responsibilities, weAca,!a,,cre usually studying and memorizing our music,Aca,!A? he mentioned.
Hjelmgren nodded as she pointed out, Aca,!A"Many of the Soldier-Musicians here have lots of additional duties; many are in school earning masterAca,!a,,cs degrees and doctorates; many perform outside typical duty hours to hone their skills as musicians and provide music to those who may not be able to come to one of our concerts. It can be quite draining, and it is hard, at times, to pause and take a breath.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"Yet,Aca,!A? she said, Aca,!A"you have to.Aca,!A?
You donAca,!a,,ct always HAVE to do everything together, but you CAN.
With all the challenges that face these Soldier-Musician couples, it can be easy to forget the good stuff.
Lesche [Laura] finds her outlet in hobbies. She loves to scrapbook.
Aca,!A"Each of us needs our own outlets outside of work, outside of family,Aca,!A? she commented.
At the same time, she realizes that, in her case, when she and Steve have been separated for any length of time, she shifts her passion for scrapbooking into her relationship.
Aca,!A"Because we are so often separated, it is essential for us to prioritize quality time together at home before any individual hobbies we have. It helps keep our marriage strong,Aca,!A? she said.
Hjelmgren draws attention to a positive facet of being a dual military couple that is often overlooked.
Aca,!A"Being a Soldier married to a Soldier means that you can relate to each other on levels most couples cannot. You can more fully understand career successes and distresses,Aca,!A? she remarked.
Cox, who has been in the Army, in the SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus, for close to twenty-six years, knows what it means to commit to a team. His outlook mimics the principle of yin and yang.
Aca,!A"We are a bit like bookends toward one another. Our respective strengths complement each otherAca,!a,,cs weaknesses.Aca,!A?
Spending lots of time in close proximity does have its challenges, but Cox observes that, though their jobs require them to spend nearly every waking moment together, the life they lead has also Aca,!A"spared us the pain of long periods of separation that other Soldiers often experience.Aca,!A?
The Garcias consider themselves lucky, and, even after 8 years of marriage, they still feel like newlyweds.
Aca,!A"Ensure that you take a moment to think about all of the positive things in your life together,Aca,!A? Betsy affirmed.
Aca,!A"Recognize that your shared experiences, your shared joys, your shared sacrifices only make your bond to one another even stronger.Aca,!A?
About The United States Army Field Band:
The U.S. Army Field Band, The Musical Ambassadors of the Army, has performed for more than 100 million people worldwide for more than 50 years. As the premier touring musical representative for the United States Army, this internationally-acclaimed military unit travels thousands of miles each year performing for enthusiastic audiences all over the world. Through these concerts, these Soldiers representing Soldiers continue to tell the Army story and keep the will of the American people behind the members of our armed forces.
Go to www.armyfieldband.com to learn more about The United States Army Field Band.