By Trish Muntean, Fort Wainwright PAOSeptember 30, 2011
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Among cheers and tears, Nicole Walters was named the winner of Fort Wainwright's Operation Rising Star contest Sept. 24.
The contest, sponsored by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the Veterans of Foreign Wars was held at the recently renovated Nugget Lanes and started out with 17 contestants Sept 23. The top six sang again Saturday night to decide on the top three. Those three, Walters, Spc. Michael Polmanteer, Medical Department Activity-Alaska, and Kayla Elenes then sang one final song to determine the winner.
"I was overfilled with so much joy, it was so amazing," Walters said Monday morning. "I am still floating on cloud nine."
Walters is the wife of Staff Sgt. Spencer Walters, 73rd Engineer Company, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, who is currently serving overseas. While he could not be there to watch her perform, he sent her text messages throughout the evening and she was surrounded by her five daughters, friends, members of her family readiness group and people from her church.
Polmanteer, who works at Bassett Army Community Hospital, was the second-place winner after singing Josh Grobin's "Remember When It Rained."
"I really enjoy singing, he said. "Singing is what gets me through to the next day. There is always some song that you can relate to and I express myself through singing."
Kayla Elenes, wife of Sgt. Jacob Elenes, 184th Military Intelligence Company, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, took third place in the competition with the song "Someone Like You" by Adele. She said she was excited for the opportunity to compete again after being busy for the last few years raising her family.
"The thing that made this contest special was all of these competitors coming and bringing their best and wanting to share their gifts with everyone, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeffrey Price, the commander and bandmaster of the 9th Army "Arctic Warrior" Band, who was also a judge for the contest. "Without all of them, it wouldn't have been as successful."
In addition to the singing competition, there was also a "Spirit Award" given to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment family readiness group. The $300 award was given to the family readiness group that showed the most support through the loudest applause during multiple roll calls done through the two nights of competition.
The presence and participation of the family readiness groups "added a dynamic and energy that hasn't happened on this post for this type of event," Price said. "It really was a dynamic event."