Young soul, big voice
November 8, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas-Small in stature but big in poise, the eight-year-old international gospel singing sensation, Rhema Marvanne Voraritskul, graced Fort Hood with her presence Nov. 5, at the Remembrance Memorial Ceremony to honor the lives lost during the shootings at the Soldier Readiness Center a year ago.
The small wonder teamed up with the contemporary gospel singer, Rick Bernard James, to sing "The Prayer."
"Like Rhema, this song is an inspiration to us all," said James. "This little lady is blessed with an extraordinary voice. When you see her, you may think 'OK, here's a cute child performer,' but when you hear her, her voice will hit you like it belongs to one of the greats."
Rhema, who sings under her first and middle name, was born to Teton and Wendi Voraritskul in Carrollton, Texas. The young entertainer performs three to four times a month but volunteered to come and sing at the ceremony for the fallen Soldiers. She says she holds a special tie very close to her heart to the military and Fort Hood. Her uncle, Capt. Sratha Voraritskul, Dallas native, assistant fire direction officer, is assigned to the 41st Fires Brigade.
"I am so happy that I am here to support my niece and pay my respects at the same time," said Voraritskul. "It's a big honor to see her perform close to where I work. I think about why my niece is here, then I think about how young and innocent she is. But when you listen to her sing, you realize, her voice is big enough to cover the importance of this ceremony."
Rhema stated this was her first time singing in front of a military audience.
"It's a big honor to sing for those in uniform," said Rhema. "My uncle is in the Army, so I'm happy that he's here and I can sing for him because that means a lot to me."
Rhema's father stated she started singing as soon as she learned to talk and she began to sing on a full time basis after her mom passed away.
"Words cannot express how proud I am of my daughter and what she has done with her talent to touch others," said Teton Voraritskul, Rhema's father and manager. "Volunteering for this memorial ceremony has been a great honor and privilege for us. We are blessed to be a part of the healing process. This is the least we can do to give back to the men and women in service. If her mom was her today, she would be filled with joy, to see how far Rhema has come since she began singing," said Voraritskul.
Rhema was six years old when her mother passed away in 2008, succumbing to ovarian cancer.
"When I sing, it makes me think of my mother, which makes me happy," said Rhema. "I want to take my gift that makes me happy and share with those who are still sad and try to make them happy again."
Several of the family members of those being honored in the remembrance memorial attended the ceremony and appreciated the outcome and support from everyone.
"The ceremony was nicely done and very emotional. Gen. Casey's words were very heartfelt," said Lelia Hunt-Willington, of McKinney, Texas and sister of Spc. Jason Hunt, a Soldier who lost his life during the shooting incident last November. "Rhema's song was the most moving thing that I think I've ever heard. She's just beautiful inside and out and I don't think there was a dry anywhere on this field. Her song touched us all in so many different ways, it was a perfect selection to highlight the day."
"Today meant a lot to me," said Shoua Hei Xiong, of St. Paul, Minn. "It was a good way to remember all the Soldiers, especially my husband. Rhema's song just reminds me that my husband is in a better place and that he's looking over us."