News: Soldiers sing away blues on JBLM
Story by Sgt. Cody Quinn
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The microphone hums to life. Multicolored lights flicker against a black banner. With tentative steps, a Soldier mounts the stage. Music pours through the speakers and a country legend is born.
A country legend in the minds of the audience gathered at Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers’ Thursday night open mic at the Warrior Zone on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., at least.
“I come here because it’s a friendlier atmosphere than off-post. People are more understanding and supportive here,” said Pvt. Phillip Bailey, a Redding, Calif., native and infantryman with 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, JBLM.
The open mic night allows music lovers, performers and Soldiers seeking a night of fun close to home a chance to mingle. Soldiers line-dance, sing, play instruments and recite poetry Thursdays from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
“People come out, meet new people and make friends. We have regulars who are like family,” said Spc. Jennifer Helm, the JBLM BOSS president, a military policewoman and Pinconning, Mich., native.
“Open mic night is a way to get soldiers out of the barracks. They get to express themselves on stage,” she said. “They could be doing this off-post. Here, they don’t have to worry about drunk driving or catching a ride. They can just walk back to the barracks.”
“It’s good to get out of the barracks, and the food and beer are cheap here,” said Bailey.
Soldiers who spend a Thursday evenings singing at the Warrior Zone don’t have to worry about the usual concerns that come with enjoying the nightlife off-post.
“Coming here helps me stay out of trouble,” said Pfc. Patrick Hutchins, a Franklin, Ark., native and infantryman with 1st Batt., 17th Inf. Regt., 2-2 SBCT, 7th ID.
Hutchins comes from a musical family and plays guitar and sings original songs in an up-tempo or slow country style, as well as sings karaoke, during open mic night.
“Back home I played in talent shows. It’s a little easier than playing in front of people you know and work with.” said Hutchins. “When I feel bad, playing music calms me down. It’s fun.”
Soldiers attending open mic night get to cut loose and express themselves in ways they don’t have the opportunity to do during the workday.
“Being on stage relieves stress, gives us a chance to get away from the uniform and relax in a safe environment,” said Bailey.
This is the second year BOSS has sponsored an open mic night at the Warrior Zone, said Helm, and they plan to keep the event going next year.
“We’ve had the patio absolutely full with several different acts,” said Helm. “We’d like to see more open mic poetry, musicians and singing. Right now it’s mostly karaoke.”
The open mic night’s curtain draws to a close at the end of September, at least until May 2015, but the experience has shown Soldiers that the support of comrades isn’t limited to the battlefield.
“We’re supportive of people on the stage because we’re on the same team,” said Bailey. “Regardless of our job, we’re all here working together, going through the same stuff.”