By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 22, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August. 22, 2014) -- Spectacular stage lights, high notes and high-energy dance moves are just some of the experiences that the Wiregrass community was treated to during the 2014 U.S. Army Soldier Show this year.
This year's show returned to Enterprise High School's Performing Arts Center Aug. 12 and 13 and had audience members singing and dancing along during the 1 ?-hour show that not only entertained, but educated on hard-hitting issues that plague the Army and society as a whole.
The show featured a myriad of hits from today and yesteryear, and coupled amazing vocals with dazzling dance moves that kept the audience fully engaged throughout the performance.
Shannon Stokes, Enterprise native, said that the show was a treat for her and her Family, who rarely get to see performances of this caliber.
"This really was an amazing treat for my Family and me because there isn't really anything like this around here," she said. "We don't get to travel too often, so for the Soldier Show to come here and perform and share the Army's story really opens our eyes to what's out there beyond our scope."
The show focused on the theme, "Stand Strong," and through that theme the performances conveyed different struggles that Soldiers and Family members might endure in Army life.
"'Stand Strong' still deals with Army resiliency, so we talk about our sponsorship program, we do a Gold Star Family tribute, hit on suicide prevention, sexual harassment and rape prevention training, physical fitness training -- just a host of different themes," said Sgt. 1st Class Freddy McDuffy, NCOIC of the U.S. Army Soldier Show. "The show goes over things that Soldiers and Family members endure, such as deployments and other hard times."
It's those themes and underlying messages that make the show more than just entertaining, but informative.
"They tackled some really tough questions and tough issues (during the show), and I thought they did that … with dignity and with a lot of really well thought out themes to bring about some really relevant issues that we have today," said Russell B. Hall, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker deputy to the commanding general. "A lot of these aren't just Army issues, they're national issues, and we have to take care of our men and women. I thought it was well done -- emotional, tough, but spot on."
For Stokes, the themes and topics throughout the show were ones that she said she could closely relate, specifically on the subject of suicide.
"It's something that's hard for me to talk about, but there was once a period in my life where I just felt like I couldn't continue on, and if weren't for the love of the people in my life who intervened, I might not be standing here today enjoying this amazing show with my Family," she said. "It really hits home and makes me feel extremely proud of our Army that they would hit on such sensitive issues, and do it in a way that we can relate."
McDuffy said it's success stories like Stokes' that makes enduring the long days and year-long traveling completely worth the work. He spoke of a woman who shared her story with him after one show, saying it made him see how much the show actually impacts people.
"This woman came to me in the receiving line after one show and said to me, 'thank you for that message,' and she showed me her wrist and where she tried to kill herself," said the Soldier Show NCOIC. "She said her Soldier saved her and she broke down crying into my arms, and it was a real "wow" moment, because you really do touch people.
"When you're standing in that receiving line and people tell you how much the show touched them, that's the most important part for all of the performers," he said, adding that it makes all the traveling and time away from his Family worth it.
The show also paid tribute to the bi-centennial of the "Star Spangled Banner" with set designs and images to support the underlying theme, and two spectacular renditions of the national anthem at the beginning and end of the show.
Soldiers who participate in the show are on the road for the better part of a year, and McDuffy said that although it seems like it's a long time to be apart from Family, since the show tours across the country, many of the Soldiers get the opportunity to see their Families at some point in the tour.
Additionally, McDuffy said that Family members have to option to tag along during the summer months.
There are 61 scheduled performances this year, but shows are added on throughout the year for matinee performances and encores, said the NCOIC, but despite their rigorous schedule, he knows that each place they visit will leave a lasting impression.
"We came to uplift the troops and build morale for the Soldiers, Family member and the communities, so that's what we focus on -- selfless service," he said.