JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's certainly not one of those secrets that must be kept for our national security, but most people don't know something about our Navy and other branches of service.
One of those relatively unknown units of our military has a unit stationed at NAS Jacksonville: The Navy Band Southeast. It's one of the Navy's 11 fleet bands.
"Even as a recruiter -- I was a recruiter up in New York -- a lot of people just from the fleet and big Navy, they don't realize there are musicians... that's all we do, said Musician 2nd Class Laura Carey, lead vocalist of the band. "People kind of don't know that we exist, but uh, it's nice to surprise people, and say, 'No we do!' And we're good."
Once the music begins, there's no mistaking their existence -- and it's quite a show.
"I get paid to sing. "I get paid to do what I love to do, and I get the added bonus of serving my country," said Carey, who will sing the National Anthem Sunday night before the veterans appreciation concert at Mayport Naval Station.
The band is gearing up for their big winter concert.. Their lead vocalist, preparing to open tonight's ceremonies with our national anthem.
"If you do realize how many people are going to be there and the coverage that its going to receive... it plays mind games with you. It makes you scared," Carey said. "So, I try to make it like its just another day, but it is very exciting to be able to open for such a large headliner such as Tim McGraw.... even though it would be better if it was Faith Hill! But, I guess her husband will be a good second."
While Sunday night marked Carey's first country concert performance (pictured, right), but this isn't her first rodeo. She has taken center stage in Times Square during Fleet Week, at New York Giants games, the Yankee's game on 9/11 and a World Series parade in the Big Apple.
It's safe to call her a seasoned vocalist now, but it took some experience to get her nerves under control.
"When I first started before my performance, I would have to go over to the wings and find myself a trash can and you know...," Carey said. "Now I... drink a lot of water and make sure I go to the bathroom."
She started singing in high school, promises she never sings in the shower, and always dreamed of breaking into the opera world -- something only few can do.
Learning of the Navy's music program brought her one step closer to her dream. She can no longer count the years she's served our country on two hands.
But in the beginning, she had to prove to some recruiters that possibility existed.
"I walked in to the local recruiting station by my parents' house in New York, and I told them: 'I want to join. Here's all my documentation. I want to be a musician.' And they kind of went, 'There's no such thing.'"
Singing the Star-Spangled Banner for the heroic men and women who keep our nation safe and free in honor of Veteran's Day as a military member herself, she says that's quite the honor.
"It means a lot to me because I feel like I'm honoring them, as well as all of their comrades -- everyone who fought with them, and, potentially, sacrificed for them."
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