By Tech Sgt. Erich B. Smith | National Guard BureauAugust 16, 2017
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Army Maj. Edgar I. Quinones-Marin, a program analyst at the National Guard Bureau, never expected to be the go-to Soldier to sing patriotic songs at events and ceremonies in the National Capital Region. But at a promotion ceremony more than 10 years ago, the event's honoree expressed dissatisfaction with the planned playing of a recorded version of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
What he really wanted was a live performer, said Quinones-Marin, who had a simple suggestion: "I've sung before in school and church. I can hook you up with that."
With little preparation, he belted out the national anthem, and word-of-mouth got around that his talent extended past his military role.
Now, Quinones-Marin said he averages three engagements per month, ranging in locations such as the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery to the National Archives building and other locations.
"The biggest compliment I can get is when people tell me they get goose bumps when I sing -- because they know what the song means, and they are feeling what I'm feeling when I sing it,"he said.
Quinones-Marin credits military discipline in maintaining focus when singing, as well as a love for the performing arts he discovered as a 10-year-old in his native Puerto Rico.
"I sang in a church group with some friends, but eventually the musical director realized I stood out,"he said.
A solo hobby was born and churches would turn into larger settings, such as the time he sang "God Bless America" as part of a half-time show at a Washington Redskins game in September 2015.
Though the venue was larger than anything he had done on a military installation, Quinones-Marin said he relies on two methods when preparing for a performance -- warming up the throat muscles and focusing on a small fraction of the crowd.
"You can only see 20 to 25 people when you are wearing an Army Service Uniform cap,"he said.
Although singing in a football stadium was a memorable occasion for him, Quinones-Marin said a chapel was the location of his most important performance.
"A chaplain asked me to sing "Amazing Grace"at Fort Myer's Memorial Chapel for Army Guard and active [component] Soldiers who were killed in Iraq,"he said. "It was a moment that I felt I was really bringing something to the table, trying to let them know how appreciative we all were for their service."
Though Quinones-Marin admires a variety of renditions of "The Star-Spangled Banner,"he said a Soldier must approach the time-honored national anthem in a spirited, yet conservative way.
"When I sing it, it's simple and to the point,"he said. "It's about the story of a battle and as Soldiers we can pretty much identify ourselves with what's going on."
Sgt. 1st Class Sylvia Bastian, who coordinates protocol duties for the director of the Army Guard, said Quinones-Marin is a huge draw for local promotion and retirement ceremonies in the National Capital Region.
"He has that presence, that exuberance when he sings,"she said, adding that the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect and honor reflect in his performances.
For Quinones-Marin, singing in area events is merely an extension of being a goodwill ambassador, and he encourages younger Guard members to find ways outside of their career fields to represent the Guard.
"When you're doing what you're getting paid to do, that is to be expected,"he said. "But when you are doing the unexpected, you're giving a little part of yourself that shows how great it is to be in the military, as opposed to just saying it."
Quinones-Marin said his calendar is still full, with his most recent, high-profile performance at a minor league baseball game in Woodbridge, Virginia.
One more venue, however, still eludes him: Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals.
"I was told by my fellow Soldiers that you have to go to the minor league first. If they think you're good, then they'll bring you up to the majors,"he joked.