Music for the Troops, by the 'Troops'
Hames, Jacqueline M., Soldiers Magazine
"SING?" Daniel Jens, member of the 4TROOPS musical group, asked the sound technician before bursting into a rap. His band mates, Meredith Melcher, Ron Henry and David Clemo shook their heads and laughed. Their energy and regard for one another was apparent while they warmed up onstage at Wallace Theater at Fort Belvoir, Va.
The band, together since December 2009, was at the theater to mentor the cast of the U.S. Army Soldier Show. Melcher, Henry, Clemo and Jens sang a few songs from their album (released May 11) for the cast and brought them all onstage for an impromptu meet-and-greet.
"Congratulations to all of you," Henry said with a big smile as the Soldiers gathered around. "You're doing something I never got the chance to do."
Though Henry didn't have the opportunity to be in the Soldier Show, the retired staff sergeant competed in "Operation Rising Star," an annual singing contest sponsored by Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command. There, he met Victor Hurtado, the current production director for the Soldier Show, who is also responsible for bringing 4TROOPS together.
"I had met Victor after I got off of America's Got Talent,'" Jens said. When the record label management approached Jens about forming a group, he immediately recommended Hurtado. "I trusted Victor with my life, and I knew that with his production background working with talented Soldiers, I trusted that they were going to be great."
Hurtado pulled in Melcher and Clemo, whom he worked with in the 2004 production of the Soldiers Show, and contacted Henry last. He "brought us all together because he knew about our talents, and our consistency and our reliability," Melcher said. She emphasized that reliability and accountability are important traits in the Army and the music industry.
The group imparted some valuable wisdom on the cast of Soldier Show: primarily to stay humble, appreciate the backstage and tech crews, and of course, to share their gifts.
"Encourage one another, whatever dream you've got," Jens said, "I don't care how long it takes; fight. Fight for what you believe in, fight for your goals."
4TROOPS has only been together as a group for a short time, but the band members work well together because they share a common background: all of them are combat veterans. Clemo and Jens are both former sergeants, and Melcher is a former captain.
The 4TROOPS members agreed that one of the most amazing things they experienced while deployed was performing for other Soldiers. Jens would use music to take his mind off things that worried him, and his friends would gather to hear him play guitar and sing.
"To see the war, so to speak, just melt of their faces, it was like we were back home around the campfire. And that's when it really hit for me," Jens said. "I can be doing something really important here. I can use my talent for something that's bigger than me."
Melcher sang for fellow Soldiers during a Fourth of July show and was touched by the reaction. …