When a handful of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center Huntsville's employees, also members of the Huntsville Center holiday choir, stopped by the Floyd E. "Tut" Fann State Veterans Home to visit with veterans and wounded warriors they had no idea their afternoon would turn into an inspiring, life-changing experience.
The lunch room of the veterans home was filled music and singing as members of the choir visited with patients and staff Dec. 20. Veterans clapped their hands, snapped their fingers and sang along with the choir.
Considered community outreach by some, it became much more to the Huntsville Center employees, veterans and staff.
Angela Andrews, Contracting Directorate, served as choir director for the group. She was responsible for getting the choir ready for their performances at the Huntsville Center Holiday Town Hall and the visit to the state veterans home in only four weeks.
Andrews said she reached her goal and hopes to continue to work with the choir.
"What can I say - they (choir) were awesome! They gave very uplifting performances," Andrews said.
"The veterans home experience will be one that I will never forget. To see the impact of us sharing in some way was overwhelming to me. Our mission was twofold: to set the atmosphere for the Holiday Town Hall gathering and to bring good cheer to the veterans and wounded warriors. I want to thank the choir for their sacrifice, especially with their busy work schedules and the Huntsville Center Activities Association for allowing us to form a holiday choir this year."
Charlotte Eason, director, Tut Fann said she was very pleased with Huntsville Center's outreach effort.
"We were happy that our staff could accompany two of our residents to participate in the Corps' Holiday Town Hall event. Our veterans appreciate the nice gift baskets they received there. It was nice to know that someone was thinking of them," Eason said.
Eason said she was delighted to facilitate an opportunity for Huntsville Center employees to visit the veterans home during their holiday gathering.
"This is much more than we could have expected. The Corps really reached out to our veterans and helped to make this holiday season special for them," Eason said. "Our staff enjoyed the choir's performance too. We are all very grateful today's visit." Eason said.
Choir member, Tisha Fitch, Contracting Directorate said the visit encouraged her.
"I can't find the words to express how much it means for me to be here. I'm a veteran who is getting a chance to reach out to other veterans, both professionally and personally in an outreach effort. Reaching out to veterans and wounded warriors is part of the USACE Campaign Plan, and I am a veteran," Fitch said.
"It can be difficult for others to understand what it means be a veteran if they haven't served. I watched one of the veterans singing along with our choir with tears in his eyes and was left speechless. I joined him in the audience and gave him my personal thanks," Fitch said.
Choir member, India Cook, Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate said the visit motivated her, too, and being a part of the choir was a great way to build esprit-de-corps and meet new people within Huntsville Center.
"Participating in the choir is very memorable for me. I'm a military spouse, and I've been at Huntsville Center for a little over a year now. I was surprised to learn that more than half our choir members were either veterans or the spouse of a military service member or veteran," Cook said. "It also gave me a chance to share with others.
Tut Fann veteran, Charlie Elkins said the outreach visit meant a lot to him.
“It’s been a very wonderful day hearing the music, and the gifts that were given to Tut Fann are greatly appreciated. Thank you for remembering us,” Elkins said.
Andrews, accompanied by volunteer musician, Chester Andrews, also Andrews husband, went above and beyond, performing a tribute at concert's end.
"This one is for you, Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and a Happy New Year, too," Andrews said as she serenaded every veteran in the room.
When thanked, Andrews simply stated, "Veteran and wounded warriors, we are blessed to be in your presence. Thank you for your service."