New Gospel choir hits a note with troops deployed in Iraq

BAQUABAH, Iraq — They lift their voices together in harmony, move in seemingly perfect rhythm and they’re united in their cause.

Not bad for the first two weeks.

The Gospel Choir at Forward Operating Base Warhorse has grown to a dozen members after just two weeks in operation. They are one of the featured attractions at chapel’s gospel service, which are being held at the Faulkenburg Theater on post occupied by members of the 3rd Heavy Combat Brigade, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colo.

The choir’s director is Sgt. Ray Silva. He’s an Army Reservist from Lubbock, Texas, and works in the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion as a facilities liaison.

The soft-spoken Silva said choir members hit it off during their first practice. They’ve only improved with time.

“God has truly blessed us,” Silva said. “During our first choir practice, we all got together and introduced ourselves.

“We kind of listened to each other’s voices and just through the miracle of God, we just all pulled together and started working together. We worked on our first song that night and it was awesome.”

Directing a choir in a combat zone has its challenges, Silva said. Between competing schedules and demanding jobs, getting the choir together for practice isn’t always easy.

“One of the challenges is getting people to actually come out to the choir,” Silva said. “There is so much talent out there, and just to have them get over their fears of performing in front of people, that’s one of the challenges I’m finding.”

The challenges only serve to make the finished product more enjoyable, Silva said.

“Once we get together, though, and we look at all our talent and put it together, it’s awesome,” Silva said. “It’s amazing how God works through us.”

Although choir members come from different units, work different jobs and have different working hours, they are united by their faith. It’s a common link, one member said.

“You have a lot of people who really have a lot of desire and a passion to lift up the name of Jesus,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Dukes, a choir member. “No matter where we are, deployed or back home, God always brings us together to worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Dukes, who serves as a member of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division’s technology office, is a member of his choir in his home church in Texas. He said singing in a choir here makes the long months of the deployment easier.

“Just to be able to see the members of the choir, it’s the highlight of the day,” Dukes said. “It’s an opportunity where we can set rank aside and set our differences aside and just magnify the Lord.”

One of the choir’s most dynamic performers is Pfc. Erica Greene, Company C, 64th Brigade Support Battalion. She said she thinks of her fellow choir members as family even though they have only been together a few days.

“I appreciate and love the God that I see in them, and I feel like I have known them forever,” Greene said. “I know that God is in them.”

Greene, like the others, loves music. It’s her way of expressing her faith.

“I’m able to praise God with a gift I feel like he’s given me,” Greene said. “I’m able to sing and that’s a way he’s able to speak to me through song.”

The choir now performs most of its music without musical accompaniment. They hope to add a band as more musicians are recruited over the course of their yearlong deployment.

With or without instruments, the choir plays an important role in the gospel service, the post’s most-attended religious service. Chaplain (Maj.) James Hartz, 3rd HBCT’s chaplain, stressed its contribution to the service.

“Traditionally, it brings another avenue of worship,” Hartz said. “In the gospel tradition, it’s a big part of getting everybody focused on worship.

“In this tradition, worship and praise are things that lead you into praise or testimony. It’s a way of getting your heart and mind for worship. I think that is very important.”

Spc. Lee Elder is assigned to the 133d Mobile Public Affairs Detachment based at Fort Hood in central Texas.

Published by Keener Communications Group, April 2006

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