Keeping the Spirit: From Battlefield to Backstage
December 8, 2010
Each year, Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and The U.S. Army Band Aca,!A"PershingAca,!a,,cs OwnAca,!A? present the history of the Army through the eyes of the American Soldier during Spirit of America performances around the country. A reminder that sometimes the smallest moments can have the biggest impact, Spirit of America reveals the often lesser known events of perseverance and resiliency of our Soldiers and their families.
But behind the scenes, the unique stories are still being created. After spending a year in Iraq with The Old GuardAca,!a,,cs Charlie Company, Sgt. Don Baker had only been home for a week before leaving again as a medic in support of Spirit of America. Exemplifying the tactical and ceremonial diversity of The Old Guard, Baker volunteered to spend the month of September on the road.
Spirit of America 2010 was BakerAca,!a,,cs second tour with the show. During his first Spirit of America tour, it was the small moments that had an impact that would change his life forever.
In Sept. 2008, only months after arriving at The Old Guard, he was told he was going to Worcester, Mass., to replace a fellow medic who had to take emergency leave. It was the last three days of Spirit of America 2008, where he met Julie Curren, a civilian public affairs specialist with the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.
Aca,!A"I noticed Julie the first day I was at the arena waiting to get my credential,Aca,!A? Baker said. Aca,!A"I finally got the chance to introduce myself on the last day of the show.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"You become familiar with the cast and crew after a couple weeks on the road, but I was so busy. I didnAca,!a,,ct realize that this gorgeous guy in civilian clothing who was asking me out was the new medic,Aca,!A? said Julie. Aca,!A"It was only later and by sheer luck and clumsiness that I literally ran into him as I was running back to my office after intermission. We exchanged numbers and met after the show.Aca,!A?
Julie drove back to Washington, that weekend with her boss. Aca,!A"The two of us drove her crazy text messaging all the way home,Aca,!A? said Julie. Don and Julie met for dinner a few days after their return. Aca,!A"I admit, I was worried when Don said he would be deploying to Iraq,Aca,!A? said Julie. Aca,!A"I didnAca,!a,,ct know how it would change our relationship.Aca,!A?
Fortunately the distance only brought them closer. During BakerAca,!a,,cs mid-tour leave in Feb., they decided to get married.
Aca,!A"At first, I thought he was just messing with me,Aca,!A? said Julie. Aca,!A"But just as when we first met, he was persistent and successful in getting my attention. We discussed it over dinner one night and went the next afternoon to the courthouse. It was just the two of us, and we were wearing jeans, but I wouldnAca,!a,,ct have traded that moment for anything.Aca,!A?
Just thirty-six hours after their first kiss as husband and wife, Baker returned to Iraq.
Aca,!A"Unfortunately I didnAca,!a,,ct have time to figure out the paperwork and the logistics that are required,Aca,!A? said Baker. Aca,!A"I relied on Julie to do a lot of it Aca,!" including finding us a new place to live.Aca,!A?
Baker returned August 28. Julie was working a public affairs mission at Andrews Air Force Base when he returned and blew her a kiss coming off the plane.
Aca,!A"I was looking for her the minute I stepped off the plane,Aca,!A? Baker said. Aca,!A"I had asked my leadership before we got back if I could go on Spirit of America because I didnAca,!a,,ct see any point in sitting at home on the couch while she was busy working. I wanted to be there to celebrate and to reminisce and to support her.Aca,!A?
The Bakers celebrated the two year anniversary of the day they met and their seven month wedding anniversary while on the road.
Aca,!A"It may seem silly to some to celebrate your seven month wedding anniversary or even the anniversary of the day you met someone, but thereAca,!a,,cs nothing that I donAca,!a,,ct want to celebrate with her. Being away for a year shows you that you canAca,!a,,ct let the small moments pass you by. Taking the time away from the other 300 people on the trip to celebrate the day we met Aca,!" just the two of us - is something IAca,!a,,cm going to treasure for the rest of my life,Aca,!A? Baker said.
The moment Julie enjoyed most during the Spirit of America tour was being able to watch the entire final show with her husband. Aca,!A"We were so busy for three weeks, but suddenly it felt like it was just the two of us in the arena. Spirit of America is so much of who we are Aca,!" both as individuals and as a couple. IAca,!a,,cve always loved my job, but this show has become more than just a way to pay the bills. Telling the Army story, entertaining, informing and inspiring audiences around the country, and gaining support for service members and other families is so rewarding. I look at Don. HeAca,!a,,cs so strong, yet he tears up during the show. After spending a year away from home and then volunteering to come on the road with us Aca,!" his devotion to the Army, to both The Old GuardAca,!a,,cs tactical and ceremonial missions, and now to his wifeAca,!A| he never ceases to amaze me."
Aca,!A"The show hits home a little differently for me than before deployment,Aca,!A? said Baker. Aca,!A"Now I Aca,!" we have gone through it. The emotions that I feel are stronger and now that I have someone else who depends on me, the showAca,!a,,cs depictions of the separations and reunions sink in more. It makes me value and appreciate what itAca,!a,,cs like to have someone at home taking care of everything on a daily basis.Aca,!A?
Each year Spirit of America demonstrates what every Army Family knows to be true Aca,!" that whether itAca,!a,,cs 1775 or 2010, every couple has a story thatAca,!a,,cs unique to them. ItAca,!a,,cs the little moments -- the first kiss, searching for houses while separated by eight time zones, a candlelit dinner for two or the first kiss after a deployment -- that build the foundation of a great love story.
A reminder that sometimes the smallest moments can have the biggest impact reminds us all of just how far weAca,!a,,cve come.