Veterans Day 2022

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

The two singing groups were performance-ready, having practiced for the last several weeks for the music that we were going to sing at assisted living locations.

One group—the Catalina Chorale (under the direction of Randall Dighton)—sang in the morning at Watermark. The other group—The Sonoran Singers (under the direction of Cora Peters)—sang in the afternoon at All Seasons. Both groups had an eclectic variety of music, which included some rousing military pieces. After all, it was Veterans Day.

We started our program at Watermark with “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” a song that would set the stage for the other patriotic songs in our program. There were many veterans seated in the audience. And then, after we began singing, a man (wearing a black baseball cap with Vietnam printed on it) in the front of the room, who was sitting with his wife, suddenly burst into uncontrollable tears. His wife put her arm around him as if to say, “It’s all right, Dear. I’m here next to you.”

We singers had a difficult time refocusing (note: It is very difficult to sing when one is crying), but we gathered ourselves and then belted out the song “Oklahoma”! It seemed that everyone in the audience loved the energy of the song, but who would not, with an “O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A!” shout at its end.

And when we sang the “Armed Forces Medley,” which included music from each branch of the service, all of the veterans in the audience stood (or, in some cases, tried to stand) and saluted as their particular branch of service was called out for each song. It was so emotional and inspiring.

Then, that afternoon, The Sonoran Singers performed at All Seasons, and we began our performance with “Get Happy”/”Oh Happy Day,” which set the mood for our energetic program.

The group also sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and when the song was announced, one member of the audience (we assumed that he was a veteran) stepped out of the room and pulled in a 10-foot-tall pole with the American flag on it inside the room. Our director asked us to look at the flag when we sang the song. Our program also included “America the Beautiful,” “This Is My Country,” and “God Bless America.”

Our director addressed the audience and thanked all of the veterans for their service—at which point, we all saluted them. There was not a dry eye in the room, including those eyes of the Sonoran Singers.

It is hard to say what veterans think when Veterans Day comes around each year, as well as what they think when they hear patriotic songs and the song of their branch of service in particular. But I suspect that they think of those days when they went through basic training, donned their service uniforms, and served our country with pride. However, perhaps, in some cases, the veterans may also think of the horrible things they witnessed while serving—memories which will never go away.

So, the next time you see a veteran, thank him or her for the service they gave for our country. We owe them so much.