By Jonathan E. AgeeNovember 17, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - The Volunteers of the United States Army Field Band were scheduled to perform at a high school in Massachusetts on Nov. 4, but the performance was canceled due to a winter storm that crippled the Northeast nearly a week earlier.
The Volunteers started calling around to find a venue to tell the Army story at the last minute. They found that location at a local nursing home in Webster, Mass.
"I think all of us go into a mode as Soldiers where we want to do our job, and for this group in particular it is more than a job," said Staff Sgt. Randy Wight, lead vocalist and keyboardist. "We want to perform. We feel like if we can make something happen, then we are going to."
When the Soldiers arrived they began setting up in the facility's recreation area. As The Volunteers warmed up, residents throughout the nursing home heard the music and starting piling in to find a good seat.
The Volunteers performed an acoustic set of music that ranged from Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to Loretta Lynn. Many of the residents were tapping their toes while others mimed the words of the songs.
"It's something that brings them joy," said Amanda Rhines, a certified nursing assistant at Webster Manor. "You know everybody loves music. It's such a great part in everyone's life that it just brings them joy and happiness. ... They will be talking about it for days, especially because they got to see the Army performers come in."
After the performance, the Soldiers interacted with the residents, sharing stories and telling the residents about what life in the Army is like today.
"Our mission is to reach the public and perform for them, and that's what we do," said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Lindsey, lead guitarist. "Everyone had a good time. They had a good time, we had a good time. It was great to meet everybody. ... We look forward to the next time we can come back and play music. It was great."
Two days after the impromptu performance at the nursing home, The Volunteers visited the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Mass. The residents were familiar with many of the classic songs that the group performed.
When the concert was over, the Soldiers went into the audience to speak to the residents and share stories about the Army and aspects of military life.
For Nancy McCarthy, who was visiting her father, the performance struck a special chord.
"I thought it was great for my dad who has Alzheimer's. The only thing that connects with him now is music," McCarthy said. "He pretty much knows the words to every song. That's like the only thing left in his memory is music. So this is key for him."
McCarthy's father served in World War II, Korea and during the Cold War. He was just one of many veterans who enjoyed the sounds of The Volunteers and had a chance to reconnect to their military past through the universal sound of music.