173rd Fighter Wing Airman uses singing voice to show appreciation

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

Most military ceremonies have a very similar structure, it goes something like, arrival of official party, posting of the colors, playing of the National Anthem, remarks by presiding official…

The 173rd Fighter Wing follows this format carefully, adhering to the protocol guidance, and someone backstage dutifully pushes play when it’s time to present arms during the playing of the National Anthem.

Tech. Sgt. Cassondra Patterson, a training manager with the 173rd Maintenance Operations Flight, changed the complexion of these ceremonies when she volunteered to sing the Star-Spangled Banner for the maintenance group change of command, May 5, 2022.

“Tech. Sgt. Patterson sings an incredible rendition of our National Anthem that makes every ceremony more deeply meaningful than a recording ever could,” said Col. Lee Bouma, 173rd Fighter Wing commander. “It is awesome that Team Kingsley has such multi-capable Airmen that we can support our own events in such a meaningful way.”

Patterson began singing in church at the age of 11.

“I wanted to sing really bad, and so I practiced a song and sang in front of the pastor,” she said. “I asked if I could sing it during church and he said ‘yes’.”

However, Mom was unconvinced and said ‘no’--or at least until 11-year-old Cassondra sang in front of her as well.

“’Oh, you can sing!’” she relates her mother saying at the time. Her mom also suggested pursuing voice lessons, which she did—for the next seven years.

So, when she stepped onto the stage for the maintenance group change of command, she says she felt prepared to execute, what is generally considered, one of the more difficult songs to sing, especially a cappella for a live audience.

In addition to a wide vocal range, a singer must possess a good memory for lyrics that were not written in contemporary English. Patterson says she has a trick to keep her from flubbing the vocals--visualizing what the song would look like if it were images. “If I think about each part being like a scene of a play, then I can remember each phrase when I picture it in my mind.”

When prompted about what she enjoys most about singing, her response is telling. “Definitely not the nerves beforehand…” she said trailing off. “It’s gotten better but there is always that butterfly.”

But she says it dissipates quickly after a few notes.

“Once you start singing there’s just this enjoyment in getting lost in the music and feeling the music…it’s fun.”

Her motivation to keep singing runs deep. “On my dad’s deathbed he begged me to sing,” and so she does.

She pushes the nerves aside and sings at many base ceremonies—more than 10, so far. She has travelled to Sheppard Air Force Base to sing at a friend’s retirement, and Brig. Gen. Donna Prigmore, former Oregon Air National Guard commander, asked her to sing at her upcoming retirement ceremony in June.

Patterson says that singing is an honor and that she feels like it’s something she can do to show respect. “I would like this to be a gift, singing the National Anthem for you,” she said.