Ohio National Guard News

Oh, say can you … Sing!

Guard members lend voices to perform
national anthem at various events

Story by Bill Pierce, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

Ohio Department of Veterans Services

Ohio Army National Guard Sgt. First Class Amy Saltis, readiness noncommissioned officer for the 285th Medical Company (Area Support), sings the national anthem Aug. 12, 2017, during the Ohio Women Veterans Conference at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. More than 500 women Veterans were in attendance and joined Saltis in the singing the anthem while saluting the flag.

Bill Pierce

Ohio Air National Guard Maj. Jody Schweickart, wing executive officer for the 121st Air Refueling Wing, practices singing the national anthem July 20, 2017, at the Maj. Gen. Robert S. Beightler Armory in Columbus, Ohio. Schweickart has performed at local fairs and festivals, promotion ceremonies and at an event where the guest speaker was the chief of the National Guard Bureau.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (11/01/17) — The Ohio National Guard Community Relations program offers communities and organizations within Ohio the opportunity to request military support for their patriotic or public events throughout the year.

One of the more unique types of support provided is Guard members who sing the national anthem at events in the community. Currently there is a small group of singers who enjoy showing their respect to our country and flag in a way that gives them pride to serve their communities, state and nation.

Two current volunteers are Ohio Air National Guard Maj. Jody Schweickart, wing executive officer for the 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus, and Ohio Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Amy Saltis, readiness noncommissioned officer for the 285th Medical Company (Area Support), also in Columbus. Both began singing at an early age and enjoy performing “The Star Bangled Banner” at military and civilian events, while representing the Ohio National Guard.

It might be hard to imagine today, for someone watching them perform before a large audience, but both women admitted when they were younger that they were too shy to sing in front of people.

Schweickart remembers “performing” with her mother during playtime while growing up. “I used to love singing with my mom,” she said. “We had the best time singing together in my bedroom, just the two of us.”

At age 12, she was asked to take part in a musical production at her church. She said the experience helped her get used to singing in front of people. “I never want to embarrass myself,” Schweickart said. “I don’t sing all the time, so I always work hard to prepare before I sing in public.”

Although she said her children are better performers than she is, there is no lack of support from her husband, Chris, and their three children. “The kids and I try to attend all the events that she sings at,” Chris said. “They like to see her in uniform in front of people because it makes them feel special, because that’s their mommy singing.”

Schweickart has performed at events across the state including promotion ceremonies, local fairs, an ice skating performance at The Ohio State University Ice Arena and even one attended by the chief of the National Guard Bureau. “I feel I do better when under pressure,” she said. “But my favorite time to sing is when I’m rocking my children to sleep in my arms.”

Saltis said she used to dream about singing in the church choir when she was a little girl. “There was a woman at the other side of the church and she would sing so loud that I remember thinking I wanted to be that person,” she said. “I wanted to sing loud so everyone would hear me,” adding that she will always remember how vibrant the woman’s voice sounded throughout the church.

Saltis played the flute in junior high and high school band, but never joined choir. “I didn’t want to sing in front of people that I didn’t know,” she said. “That would be too intimidating.”

When she was older, she and her friends would go out at night and sing karaoke at local nightclubs. She said it was fun, but it took a long time for her to feel comfortable singing by herself in front of strangers. “I would have a friend go on stage with me and only my friend would face the audience,” Saltis said. “I would have my back to the audience because I was too nervous to turn around.”

Eventually, the more she sang karaoke, the more comfortable she felt. And, the day came when she finally turned around and sang to the audience. The more compliments she received, the more confidence she would have in herself. Not long afterward, she began winning karaoke contests, which boosted her confidence to an even higher level. With an increased level of confidence, she found herself volunteering to sing the national anthem at local festivals and other events.

Then about four years ago, she attended a brigade ball where a fellow Soldier sang the national anthem. By the time the next year rolled around, she found herself volunteering to sing at that same event and, soon after, she was volunteering to sing at as many Ohio National Guard events as she could.

At first, it was just for her brigade’s events, but eventually Soldiers she didn’t know would ask her to sing at their events. “It soon turned into Soldiers coming up to me and saying they heard I can sing and would I sing at their event,” Saltis said. “But not all of them asked.”

While deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, her brigade was hosting an Army Warrior Leader Course graduation ceremony and the group was having technical difficulties. The recorded music was not functioning properly. Her first sergeant, knowing she could sing, traveled across the post searching from tent to tent to find her. Once located, he took her to the ceremony and handed her a microphone and a chair. “I had no time to practice or clean up. It was very rushed, but I was glad I was able to support the ceremony,” she said.

Saltis has been asked to support several events sponsored by the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, such as the recent Ohio Women Veterans Conference. Sandra Puskarcik, event coordinator for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services helped organize the conference.

“It was a thrill to have Sgt. 1st Class Saltis take part in the opening ceremony with the singing of the national anthem,” Puskarcik said. “Her rendition was beautiful and personal, and the attendees’ response was stunning. Nearly 500 Ohio women veterans in one room, saluting the flag. What made it even more memorable was that they joined Sgt. 1st Class Saltis, sisters in arms, and sang along with her. It was a poignant moment that complemented the conference theme of 67,000 Strong. We certainly look forward to working with her again.”

From the day they began singing as little girls, Schweickart and Saltis never imagined they would be representing the Ohio National Guard by singing the national anthem in front of hundreds of people at a time. So, if your young son or daughter likes to sing around the house, don’t be surprised if they end up singing in front of large audiences. And, they may even end up doing it while wearing the uniform of an Ohio National Guard Soldier or Airman.

Organizations and groups interested in having a national anthem singer from the Ohio National Guard perform at their event can go to the ONG Community Relations Web page and look under “NON-AVIATION” to learn how to request support.

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