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Face of Defense: Bagram Airman Uses Music to Bring Families Together

By Capt. Michael Meridith, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2007 – Thousands of miles from home, one airman here is finding a way to bring servicemembers a little closer to their families.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Master Sgt. Tim Chandler (left), of Ashland, Ohio, and Staff Sgt. John DeLeon, of Redlands, Calif., both currently assigned to 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, share a joke during a live broadcast of an Internet radio show Oct. 28, 2007. Chandler hosts the show during his free time, giving airmen like DeLeon a vehicle to send long-distance dedications back home to their loved ones. Photo by Capt. Michael Meridith, USAF

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

For the last few weeks, Air Force Master Sgt. Tim Chandler of Ashland, Ohio, a member of 455th Expeditionary Communications Flight, has been hosting an Internet-based radio show during his free time, giving Bagram airmen a vehicle to send long-distance dedications back home to their loved ones.

“I started practicing in May while I was still back in the States, and when I told the station manager (for the Web-based “Taboo Radio”) I was coming over here, he suggested that I do a show for the troops,” Chandler said. “I thought it was a cool idea.”

Chandler, who goes by the handle “Guardstar” while on the air, has about 60 listeners from across the globe, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. However, he said, audience response has been so positive that plans are in the works to expand his show’s capability so it can support up to 500 listeners.

“I think it is a great idea, and all of us here (in the U.S.) are behind the effort totally,” Tom Pepple, the Taboo Radio station manager, said in an interview during the live show. “It is nice to see the response.”

Chandler attributes some of his show’s popularity to its eclectic mix of country, pop and oldies from the 1960s and 1970s, but mostly to the patriotism and compassion of his audience.

“(The listeners) all want to adopt the troops and be their pen pals,” Guardstar said. “We’ve also received lots of packages with blankets and clothes people have donated for the Afghans.”

Air Force Staff Sgt. John DeLeon, a singer/songwriter from Redlands, Calif., and currently assigned to 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, said Chandler’s efforts have opened an important communications channel between the airmen of Bagram and the rest of the world.

“We’re so remote that people don’t understand that we have real lives and real feelings out here. Being able to use an artistic ability to give some people gratification is really rewarding,” said DeLeon, who performs his songs on the show.

For Chandler, the most fulfilling part of the show remains bringing airmen and loved ones together. “One of my first guests sent a greeting home to his wife and daughter -- he has a three-and-a-half-year-old little girl – and afterwards his wife told him that she was laughing and crying at the same time and his daughter was looking at the computer and saying, ‘Daddy is in there!’ When you hear that, it makes you feel good,” he said.

(Air Force Capt. Michael Meridith is assigned to 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.)

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