Military News

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cold feet can't stop Reservist singing Iditarod National Anthem

by Master Sgt. Shawn J. Jones
Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service

3/25/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, ALASKA  -- Like all major American sporting events, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race doesn't commence until the last notes of the Star Spangled Banner ring out, and since the Air Force Reserve is sponsoring this year's race, it's only fitting that a Citizen Airman would sing those notes.

Tech. Sgt. Heidi Venable, 477th Force Support Squadron, said she had cold feet before and after she sung, but admitted the experience was thrilling.

Despite growing up in a family in which everyone sang and played musical instruments, she never performed the National Anthem solo before this year. Singing in front of a large crowd at a national event with cameras everywhere was a little nerve wracking, she said, but once it was time to sing, she pulled herself together.

"It was kind of surreal, I just blocked out the crowd and I went kind of numb," Venable said.

And she didn't disappoint.

"Who better to sing our National Anthem than someone who raised their hand to defend our country," said Stan Hooley, executive director of the Iditarod Trail Committee. "Not only did Sergeant Venable do a great job singing, but she provided the Iditarod an extra dash of patriotism that we surely appreciate."

After the anthem, Venable's nerves gave way to a more literal type of cold feet.

"Considering the conditions, it probably would've been fine to wear my Air Force utility uniform, but since our objective was to bring positive attention to the Air Force Reserve, I thought it best to wear my blues, which certainly weren't designed for trudging through the slush-covered streets of Anchorage," she said.

In addition to performing at the Iditarod's ceremonial start, she sang at the Musher's Banquet, one of Anchorage's major social events attended by many well-known Alaskans. Venable said she was excited to sing in front of a crowd that included Marty Raney, the star of an Alaska reality TV show that she watches, and former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

While the experience was exciting, Venable knew that she was there to accomplish a mission. In an effort to generate greater awareness for the career opportunities within the 477th Fighter Group, the Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service partnered with the Iditarod, which is one of Alaska's most popular sporting events.

Venable is no stranger to the recruiting mission. Her husband Master Sgt. John Venable has served as an Air Force Reserve recruiter for more than a decade, and when she can, she tries to support him during recruiting events, but none have been as big as the Iditarod.

"The Iditarod provides a great opportunity to get the word out about the Air Force Reserve to the people of Anchorage and the thousands of visitors the race attracts." she said. "The fact that I got to sing the National Anthem while supporting my unit and my husband's mission was more than worth the cold feet."

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