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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    New in Music Alley

    Soul Lounge: Sweet Honey in the Rocki
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    February 10, 2016 1:48 PM
    For over 40 years Sweet Honey In The Rock has entertained audiences around the globe with their signature blend of Blues, African, Gospel and R&B. The Grammy award winning group stopped by The Soul Lounge to perform and share their story as well as how they plan to keep African American musical traditions alive.

    For over 40 years Sweet Honey In The Rock has entertained audiences around the globe with their signature blend of Blues, African, Gospel and R&B.   The Grammy award winning group stopped by The Soul Lounge to perform and share their story as well as how they plan to keep African American musical traditions alive.