Soldiers prep for theatrical tour to showcase Army history
August 18, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC (Army News Service, Aug. 18, 2011) -- In a few weeks, the Army's annual Spirit of America show will be performed at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and then in Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.
Soldiers in period uniforms will re-enact key moments in history from the Revolutionary War to current operations. Audiences will see battle scenes with short periods of simulated gunfire and performances by the Army's elite ceremonial units.
"The show is kind of a look at the history of our nation from 236 years as seen through the eyes of the American Soldier -- basically where we've been and where we're going," said Sgt.1st Class Frank Carroll, of the U.S. Army Band, known as "Pershing's Own."
The show will first be performed Sept. 9 at the Verizon Center. The 10:30 a.m. performance Friday will be the first of four in the nation's capital. The next will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, then another Saturday at 2 p.m. and the final show at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10.
Four shows will then be performed the weekend of Sept. 16-17 at the North Charleston Coliseum in South Carolina. And finally four shows will be performed at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Florida the weekend of Sept. 23-24.
Admission is free for all of the shows, but tickets are required. Tickets can be reserved by calling 202-661-5065 or for groups of 20 or more, 202-661-5061. Tickets can also be obtained by visiting or mailing the Verizon Center Box Office or by calling Ticketmaster.
"This spirit of music keeping our spirits alive has been happening since the birth of our nation," said Carroll, a drummer with the Army Band. "Look back at the colonial days and the Fife and Drum Corps. At the end of the day, they sat around a campfire and listened to some music to unwind. So, I think music is imperative to morale. It's important to have people connect and relax," said Carroll.
He first served for 13 years in the ceremonial band, which plays at Arlington National Cemetery, but even after performing in the Spirit of America with Pershing's Own, he said he still gets excited.
"I learn a lot by watching the show, little tidbits about history. When I watch the show, I go, 'wow,' I did not know that. I have a whole bunch of 'ah-ha' moments in the show, I go WOW, it's amazing," he said.
The show not only features the U.S. Army Band, it also includes Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) -- the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army. Elements of The Old Guard include the Fife and Drum Corps, the Caisson Platoon, the Commander-in-Chief's Guard -- modeled after George Washington's personal guard, the Continental Color Guard and the U.S. Army Drill Team.
The U.S. Army Band also includes nine vocalists -- five women and four men, who this year will sing a medley of World War II songs, plus a variety of songs from the 60s and 70s.
Master Sgt. Caleb Green, a vocalist with "Pershing's Own," has been in the Army for 26 years.
Although he has been singing all his life -- most notably in the choir at the West End Baptist Church and at college with the Concert Choir, College Choir and Jazz Ensemble, he began singing in the Army in 1999.
"I did the first part of my career as a Signal Soldier in the regular Army. I was a radio operator, tactical satellite, platoon sergeant, and operations sergeant," he said.
The second part of his career has brought many exciting highlights.
"I sang the finale for the 2008 Christmas in Washington at the National Building Museum, singing "O, Holy Night," televised nationally, and I was the escort for Mrs. Bush," Green said.
He was also the anthem vocalist for the pre-inaugural event for President Obama, the concert on the mall the day before the inauguration.
He also still finds excitement in performing the show.
MUSIC UNDERSCORES ACTING
"The orchestra in the Spirit of America underscores all of the acting that you see in the presentation. So, as the narrators speak, there's action on the floor and it's all timed out to a tee.
"You have Soldiers acting and you have music playing and you have lighting. It's just like watching a Broadway presentation, if not better. And none of these guys are professional (singers or actors). They just get in there and the spirit of the American Soldier comes to life. It's pretty neat," Green said.
Music, he said, will move everything the audience sees.
"If all you had was acting and talking, it would be good, but it wouldn't be great. Music is what invokes that emotion. It turns the tide for the story that's being told. I mean, we watch the show and there are times when we get tears because it's emotional," he said.
One of the newest actors this year is 21-year-old Pvt. 2nd Class Steven, who joined the Army as an infantryman Jan. 4, 2011. As a member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), his normal job is casket burials at Arlington National Cemetery.
"I was sort of volun-told to audition," said Younker with a smile. "I got the speaking part as a Union Soldier in the Civil War whose buddy's brother gets shot, and I have to get a little emotional. It was really hard to get into the roll because it's kind of a new experience for me," said Younker.
He began rehearsing his part in July and then arrived at the Washington, D.C. Armory during the first week in August to start rehearsals.
"Now, we're working on timing and then we're going to do dress rehearsals, and then we go to the Verizon Center the first week of September," he said.
Married for four months and thinking of staying in the Army for 20 years, Younker might be getting the acting bug, although he wants to go to Ranger school first.
"Even though the first show will probably be the hardest, this is kind of exciting for me and I'd like to do it again next year. It's a pretty good job, actually," Younker said.
He sees the Spirit of America as more than just a show.
"I lot of people don't know the nation's history, or they don't know what Soldiers have to go through every day. This will kind of help them see a small portion of the sacrifice Soldiers go through, day-in and day-out, so it's kind of nice they get to see that," he said.
MORE THAN JUST CEREMONIAL
The entire U.S. Army Band includes about 250 people, including administration, officers, staging and audio support and supply people.
"We comprise the ceremonial band, concert band, strings, men's chorus, and downrange. It's a mixed pop group, and then we have the Army Blues," Carroll said. "The Army Orchestra is a combination of the Concert Band and the Army Strings. And we also have the Herald Trumpets, which includes some of the trumpet and euphonium players. They play for the president at the White House for visiting dignitaries,"
But there's another side to what they do.
"These guys are infantry, that's their primary mission and they have a mission here to protect our nation's capital. So, when people see us in ceremonial garb, maybe they think, 'oh, all they do is ceremonies.' No, we're still Soldiers. We still do PT (physical training), we still train, we still do all of this stuff that regular Army guys do, but we're fortunate that we have a job that's kind of looked at as a premier," Green said.
The U.S. Army, he said, can do a lot, can do it all.
"There's not much that can't be done. We're probably the strongest, fraternal/sorority-type bond that you can find in the world. Serving in the military, serving your nation, with lifelong friends, lifelong skills. We have the ability and the opportunity to excel, personally and individually," Green said.
These men and women might be enjoying themselves as they sing, act and play instruments, but there's something more they enjoy, too.
"We try to bring, especially when we go overseas, we want to bring our Soldiers a taste of home. We want them to remember that we care about them, that our nation loves them, and we wish them a speedy return home. That's our mission," Green said.
Presented on behalf of the U.S. Army, Spirit of America is designed to inform, entertain and inspire audiences of all ages.
Bringing history to life with a unique combination of stirring music, historical narration and dramatization, the show tells the story of men and women who have left friends and families behind to protect and defend the United States of America and the freedom enjoyed by everyone.
For more information on Spirit of America such as a tour schedule, history and ticketing, visit www.soa.mdw.army.mil.