By Tim Hipps, U.S. Army Installation Management CommandSeptember 25, 2014
SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 23, 2014) -- Army Entertainment announced it will celebrate the 10th season of Operation Rising Star with a "Soldier for Life" theme during finals week, scheduled for early December at the Fort Sam Houston Theatre here.
The 2014 Operation Rising Star presented by PenFed, will feature five former winners and a finalist mentoring the 2014 finalists in an All-Star edition of the military singing contest.
"For Operation Rising Star, the past 10 years has been a great opportunity to highlight Soldiers and their family members in a way that no other Army program does," Army Entertainment producer/program manager Tim Higdon said. "They get to do something that they love to do, something they are passionate about, and something each of them in their own way wants to continue to pursue even beyond their service to our country.
"This is a great opportunity for us to show the world and tell the world our story and what the last 10 years has meant to not only Army Entertainment as a program but to each of those participants, regardless of what level they participated."
U.S. Department of Defense identification cardholders and their dependents 18-and-older, can compete in local competitions through the end of October. Because the time for local competitions is short, two "wild card" active-duty Service members will be selected from video submissions to compete in the finals, as well.
A panel of judges will select the wild-card winners and one garrison winner from each of the four regions -- Europe, Atlantic, Central and Pacific. The finalists will be announced Nov. 12 on OpRisingStar.com.
Preliminary rounds are already underway at some garrisons. Twenty contestants sang on opening night at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Fort Hood, Texas, also is in the mix, along with Presidio of Monterey, California, and locations in Europe and South Korea.
Finals week is scheduled for Dec. 6-12, at the Fort Sam Houston Theatre, home of Army Entertainment. Shows are recorded with a live audience Dec. 6, 8, 10 and 12. They can be viewed at www.OpRisingStar.com, on Dec. 7, 9 and 11, beginning at 9 a.m. (CT), each day. Viewers will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite performers after each round. The winner will be revealed Dec. 13, at www.OpRisingStar.com, where the contest rules also are posted.
The All-Stars returning to mentor this year's finalists are Operation Rising Star winners Army National Guard Sgt. Vicki Golding (2006), Army veteran and DOD civilian Joyce Dodson (2008), Army veteran/wife/DOD civilian Melissa Gomez (2010), Georgia Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Constance Mack (2012), and Sgt. Christiana Ball (2013), along with 2005 runner-up Retired Staff Sergeant Ron Henry. They will mentor and perform alongside the 2014 finalists, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
"We will get to see not only this year's contestants compete, but this gives us a chance to tell the story of some of our previous winners -- what they accomplished and have experienced since winning Operation Rising Star -- so we have an opportunity to tell our stories as it relates to 'Soldier for Life,'" Higdon said. "We're going to tell their stories, [and] play some of their songs and videos.
"It's just a great marriage of telling that "Soldier for Life" story, and what it means to wear the uniform, and to support those who wear the uniform and how experiences like this prepare them for life after the military."
The 2014 Operation Rising Star All-Stars have continued their relationships with military music and military life.
Golding has been heavily involved with developing Army Entertainment alumni, particularly with the Center for American Military Music Opportunities, and has assisted with several Army Entertainment events. She also sang the national anthem at numerous professional sports events.
Gomez is a lead vocalist for the American Military Spouses Choir that advanced to the "America's Got Talent" semifinals, in 2013.
Ball, who represented Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, performed in May with Lee Brice on the nationally televised Academy of Country Music's All-Star Salute to the Troops, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Spc. Kelly Gregg, a performer in the 2012 U.S. Army Soldier Show, also performed at that event with Lady Antebellum.
Operation Rising Star helped open entertainment doors for these Soldier-performers, but not without the help of Army Entertainment alums, such as Victor Hurtado and Joey Beebe, who will return to work with their protégées. GeNienne Samuels will host Operation Rising Star for the seventh time.
Longtime Operation Rising Star judges vocal coach Debra Byrd, country music recording artist Michael Peterson, and retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley will return as judges for finals week.
"At the end of the day, Sergeant Major of the Army Jack Tilley, Debra Byrd and Michael Peterson have dedicated 10 years of their lives to this program," Higdon said. "They have been mentoring and helping shape and mold these Soldiers and family members who come through here -- giving them that feedback and experience so they can do that beyond. They are very much a part of that "Soldier for Life" story, so it gives us a chance to recognize that, too."
Pentagon Federal Credit Union, the American Freedom Foundation and Kaplan University are sponsors of the 2014 Operation Rising Star program.