News / Arts & Entertainment

Military Moms Sing Wartime Blues Away

The Swingin' Blue Stars, (from left) Sandy Lewis, Nancy Cardoza, Cindy Merino and Cindy Shon, began singing to ease their anxiety after their sons were deployed to the war zone. (Photo by James Baka at Merx Studios)
The Swingin' Blue Stars, (from left) Sandy Lewis, Nancy Cardoza, Cindy Merino and Cindy Shon, began singing to ease their anxiety after their sons were deployed to the war zone. (Photo by James Baka at Merx Studios)
A singing group that began as a way to help military moms cope with wartime anxiety is now bringing cheer to civilians and veterans.

The Swingin’ Blue Stars formed just after 9/11. Almost 12 years later, the group is still taking its show on the road.

Walking into a rehearsal of the Swingin’ Blue Stars feels like stumbling across a group of best friends. They meet about once a week in one of their living rooms in a San Francisco suburb. They push aside the furniture to face a big picture window. Sometimes they find themselves serenading neighbors.

"When it gets dark, we can’t see out but they can see in," one singer laughs. "But we watch our reflections in the glass and that helps us a little bit."

LISTEN:
Copy of FTR DORNHELM Musical Military Moms vo353 5380376 july22i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The Swingin' Blue Stars were formed by Cindy Shon. "But it was never meant to continue for more than a couple years."

It was supposed to be a distraction from worry, when, right after the attacks of 9-11, her son was deployed to Afghanistan. Shon had just joined the Blue Star Moms - a support group for U.S. military mothers. The term, "blue star," refers to having one family member in the military.

A natural go-getter, Shon organized some fellow moms to sing Christmas carols at the local veterans hospital.

Francie Roberts remembers they started getting lots of calls to sing for other veterans groups. The performances were a welcome distraction from the fear of getting a visit from a military delegation with the worst news a parent can hear.

"It just took our mind off of it, learning the songs and knowing where we’re going to perform because you just never know if he’s going to be alive or if I’m going to lose him," Roberts said. "It was so bad I even put a lock on my front gate, because I was so scared I’d come home and see a black van out there. We all went through it."

Soon the women were performing regularly. They decided to learn some of the 1940s and '50s songs the World War II and Korean War veterans loved, and even put together a routine fashioned after the old USO shows.

Roberts, whose son Blake spent 16 months with the army in Iraq, says audiences seemed to understand what motivated the mothers.

“Afterwards, everyone would come up and shake our hands," she said. "And just give us that extra encouragement that they’d be back. Our kids would be back. We needed to hear that.”

The sons and daughters of the original members of the Swingin’ Blue Stars all returned home safely from their tours of duty. Membership in the group has changed over the years and so has the focus.  The women now concentrate on songs that have special meaning to older veterans.

“Sometimes they’ll be laughing and enjoying and then sometimes the next they’ll be crying," Cindy Merino said. "And they’ll come up to you and thank you so much for that, that was the last song I danced to with my husband. It really brings back so many memories for them. It’s amazing."

The Swingin’ Blue Stars have performed at hospitals, schools, parks and community theaters in the San Francisco area, and have toured as far as the new Pearl Harbor visitors center in Hawaii and the USS Midway in San Diego.

“It’s not about having a huge audience," said Sandy Lewis. "It’s just get that one guy with the twinkle in his eye and bring that smile to his face and we would sing forever.”

Although most of the singers couldn’t have imagined singing in public 20 years ago, the Swingin’ Blue Stars intend to keep doing exactly that.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”