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July 7, 2004

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

From Village People's "YMCA" to Marvin Gaye's 1971 anti-Vietnam war anthem "What's Goin' On," Washington National Guard troops were not about to let a rocket attack stop their songfest. About a dozen members of the 81st Brigade Combat Team were rocking at the Saturday Night Karaoke Club when a siren warned them of the second rocket attack of the day on Logistical Support Area Anaconda at Balad, Iraq, the News Tribune of Tacoma reported. The newspaper has a reporter and photographer embedded with the unit.

Led by the brigade's commander, Brig. Gen. Oscar B. Hilman, who favors Frank Sinatra tunes, the troops grabbed body armor and helmets and scurried into a nearby concrete bunker. With light provided by green glow sticks, the soldiers then broke into a cappella versions of songs they all know by heart: "Under the Boardwalk," "Lean on Me," "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," "King of the Road" and "What's Goin' On."

"Father, father, we don't need to escalate," they sang. "You know, war is not the answer, 'cause only love can conquer hate." After hearing the all-clear signal, they hustled back to the song machine and tore into Prince's "Purple Rain." Sgt. Junior Smith of Tacoma said he had his wife send him the karaoke machine, and what began as a gathering of four or five friends has evolved into a Saturday night tradition for many others. "It's something for the soldiers to do so they can forget about what's going on here," Smith said, "at least for a while."

Posted by acapnews at July 7, 2004 10:35 PM


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