When 3rd Infantry Division Pfc. Joseph Shaw took the stage at Fort Stewart’s Newman Fitness Center on Wednesday night, he was there to offer military families a morale-boosting getaway — without the hassles of travel.
Shaw, a petroleum laboratory specialist stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, was one of 20 active-duty performers in the 2011 U.S. Army Soldier Show, which played to Fort Stewart crowds on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I went to the 2010 soldier show concert, and I’ve always been into music, and I saw what they did and how they made me feel, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to do that,’" Shaw said.
Now, he’s fighting on-stage jitters as he brings his talents back to the friends and comrades who supported him through the audition process. Those who missed his performances will have their chance again Wednesday, when the tour stops at Hunter AAF’s Tominac Fitness Center at 7 p.m.
"We’re performing for soldiers and families, and they’re my fellow comrades," he said. "You get worried about messing up and someone judging you, but in the end we’re all up there to have fun and make sure everybody’s having a good time — it eases your mind a bit when you think of it that way."
The 21-year-old Hot Springs, Ark., native offered his dancing skills, piano prowess and vocal stylings in seven numbers throughout the show, which is produced "by the soldier, for the soldier" according to its motto. He sang the lead in Colt Ford’s "Country Thang."
The 90-minute show featured 32 songs ranging from modern pop and country hits by the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and Sara Evans to classic favorites such as "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by Charlie Daniels.
In a nod to the service and sacrifice of the soldiers in the show and in the audience, a number of patriotic songs were laced throughout the show, with images of reuniting families and soldiers on tours projected onstage.
Capt. Kip Jacobsen, with the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 260th Quartermaster Battalion, came to the show just to see Shaw perform, and he recognized many soldiers from Hunter in the crowd, he said.
"It’s worth the experience to come out and see the hard work they put into it," Jacobsen said, adding that it offers a chance for soldiers to unwind and see that the Army is about more than hard work. "It’s nice to see soldiers do the fun side of it — they’re soldiers giving back to soldiers."
Currently in its fifth month, the eight-month tour has allowed its performers to reconnect with friends and family throughout the United States and Europe.
"We performed in just about every Army base over in Germany. We also performed in the Netherlands, in Belgium, and I have friends stationed over there that I’ve gotten to see," Shaw said.
After the tour wraps up in December, Shaw will return to Hunter for a few months before orders send him to Korea — and since the Korean installations are on the tour’s list, he will get a sneak peek at his new station, he said.
Shaw, who won the Division 3 Drum Corps International World Championship as a mallet percussionist with the Memphis Sound Drum and Bugle Corps, said he hopes to be involved in another Army musical operation in his future — but he enjoys staying in touch with his soldier core.
In a show of solidarity, the cast and crew came out in full uniform for the last numbers of the show, a moving rendition of "God Bless America" and "The Army Goes Rolling Along" before lining up to greet the crowd.
"Not only are we performers, we’re still soldiers," he said. "We still maintain our military bearing, and it’s a lot of fun making sure we’re up to par with military standards. When we’re on stage, we’re able to express ourselves in a different way, in other ways we wouldn’t be able to express ourselves as