Memorial Day, a dream come true for a Natick Soldier
May 29, 2012
By John Harlow
BOSTON (May 29, 2012) -- In New England, Red Sox Nation is a way of life. For an Army specialist, who grew up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire as the daughter of a church organist, and a huge Red Sox fan, Memorial Day 2012 is something Spc. Erin Jones will never forget.
She attended her first Red Sox game in 1986 and always dreamed of singing on the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park. During the seventh inning stretch of the Red Sox -- Tigers game on Memorial Day, that dream came true as Jones sang God Bless America.
"I'd have given anything to sing at the park any year, but this year (Fenway Park's 100th anniversary) was special," said Jones. "To be chosen to sing during such an important year in the parks history definitely makes it that much more memorable."
Jones, who is assigned to the U.S. Research Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, joined the Army on Sept. 28, 2007, and previously was assigned at Fort Hood, Texas.
Preparing to sing in front of 38,000 members of Red Sox Nation can be daunting, but Jones prepared as if she was singing in church or at a change of command ceremony.
"I practiced my words, my pitch, support and phrasing," said Jones. "I worked to make God Bless America meaningful. I knew singing outside would give me an echo delay, but the pre-game sound check helped with that. The best part of my preparation was talking with my Dad before the game and he said you're going to sing for 38,000 of your best friends, just have fun, and I did."
Growing up a Red Sox fan, Jones had a special appreciation for what had taken place within the walls of 4 Yawkey Way.
"There is nothing I can compare this experience to and it only rates behind the birth of my daughter and my wedding day," said Jones. "There is nothing like stepping onto the clay in the park where Ted Williams batted .400, Roger Clemens struck out 20 and where all the greats played and to hopefully give back a memory to the Red Sox, there aren't words to describe my feelings. It was a really emotional experience that I would love to do again. If it is the only time I sing at Fenway, it is more than I ever imagined I'd ever get to do."
Col. Gaston Bathalon, USARIEM commander, knows a Soldier is asked to do many things during their career.
"Several Red Sox fans said that Specialist Jones moved them to tears with her rendition of God Bless America," said Bathalon. "To help tell the Army story is something that we are being asked to do by Army leadership. By singing a very evident heartfelt rendition of God Bless America, Specialist Jones put a face on the many young men and women who serve in uniform today. To have done so on Memorial Day provides the backdrop to her performance. Truly an opportunity of a life time - not only to sing at Fenway Park but, more importantly, to represent the Army and all those who serve regardless of uniform is a tremendous honor. She put a face on what it means to serve in today's all volunteer force."
"The line in God Bless America that says 'Land That I Love,' takes on a special meaning to the Soldiers returning from deployment," Bathalon added. "I remember how relieved I felt when I touched down on American soil and I know others felt the same way as well."
Prior to the game, the Red Sox honored 27 members of their staff who are veterans of the military and the Color Guard from USARIEM represented NSSC by presenting the Colors for the National Anthem.
"My parents who are both professional musicians were proud of my performance," Jones added. "I received phone calls and text messages from my extended family and Army family congratulating me and telling me how impressive it was and how proud everyone was. The fan response made it all worthwhile."