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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

Singer Leyla McCalla takes up not only the guitar, but the banjo and cello to perform songs from her new disc, “A Tribute to Langston Hughes,” music that mixes the Creole rhythms of Haiti with the French Quarter flavor of New Orleans on this edition of "The Hamilton Live."