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Why I Serve: Band Musician Ready for Deployment

By Eric J. Hurwitz
Special to American Forces Press Service

DEVENS, Mass., Sept. 2, 2004 – "The thing is, I am a soldier first, and that's all there is to it."

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Frank "Skip" Spoerke of the 94th Army Band is trading his trumpet for a truck as he prepares to deploy to the Middle East. Photo by Eric J. Hurwitz

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

A trumpet and flugelhorn player with the 94th Army Band, Spoerke, 27, joined the Army seven years ago. Having played his last concert with the 94th Army Band on July 20, Spoerke has put aside his musical instruments as he awaits his mobilization orders to support the global war on terror as a truck driver.

Spoerke said he will dearly miss life as he knows it, but that he looks forward to serving his country. "It's first and foremost about getting back home our guys that have been there too long," he said. That means leaving his job as a private music instructor and his rock band VMF, which has been garnering some airplay on Cape Cod radio stations.

"Hey, it's tough," said Spoerke, a Minot, N.D., native, who lives south of Boston. "I just resigned as a music teacher. The band is going well. My parents are scared to death, but they understand."

This isn't Spoerke's first deployment, as he went to Bosnia in 2000 in support of Task Force Eagle. His life changed significantly during that deployment.

"It was the camaraderie," said Spoerke. "It was everything I thought it would be. Before then, I wasn't necessarily impressed with the Army. In Bosnia, the friendships were amazing in a time that was very stressful. We came together. I had trust in every person, and they had trust in me. We knew we weren't going to throw each other to the wolves."

The band traveled throughout Bosnia playing for civilian officials, the British military and at refugee camps.

"That might have been another turning point," said Spoerke, of playing at refugee camps. "We played every kind of music - Dixieland, jazz, rock. Every performance was different. It was heartfelt knowing that we could play for them, and have them experience music they might have never heard before."

Still, times were stressful in Bosnia. "People were yelling at us, throwing things at us, at times trying to run us down with cars. But you know what? I don't even think about it. Playing music and the camaraderie of the soldiers stands out much more."

After returning, Spoerke went into the Individual Ready Reserve. Going through a divorce, he said, he needed time to "figure things out."

He moved to Las Vegas and played music professionally, but it didn't take long for him to recognize the lifestyle wasn't for him. Spoerke latched on with the 94th Army Band, which he calls "amazing."

"They took me under their wing, and within the first drill I knew everybody. We became friends so quickly. I love playing and being with this group."

At his last 94th Army Band concert, the acapella contingent of the band dedicated a song, "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" to Spoerke and others leaving the unit. The beautiful arrangement, sung in a classic Ben E. King style, brought a chill to the hot July night, leaving some of the audience in tears and others seemingly hypnotized by the emotive tone. Spoerke stood there, at one time, with his eyes closed and his mind seemingly spinning.

"Iraq will make a career decision for me," said Spoerke later, on whether he will make a career out of the Army. "Going overseas has been on my mind. I think about it all the time, but I'm ready."

(Eric J. Hurwitz is assigned to the 94th Regional Readiness Command's public affairs office.)

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