The members of the 82nd Airborne Division All-American Chorus are set to audition for America’s Got Talent Tuesday night in a bid to become the country’s next top entertainers.
The unit’s chorus members who spoke with Military Times had previous music experience, but few expected a career in the Army to be the platform that would allow them to reconnect with their musical backgrounds.
For Sgt. Damarielis Vargas, who grew up in Puerto Rico surrounded by music and dancing, that opportunity came when she transitioned from the role of religious affairs specialist to a chorus member in the 82nd Airborne.
“I had spoken to [my staff sergeant] about how I don’t mind going to sing, but I’m a very shy person until you get to meet me,” Vargas told Military Times. “I took a leap of faith, and went and auditioned. All the pieces fell together to where I grew very close to [the other chorus members]. And we just all grew very close after my first audition, so everything just worked out.”
Tuesday’s performance will also afford the soldiers an opportunity to honor a fellow chorus member, Spc. Elijah Crawford, who died a week before the ensemble auditioned for the show.
But what song does an Army chorus perform to sing their way into the judges’ hearts while honoring past members? The group settled on the classic rhythm and blues composition “My Girl” by The Temptations.
The decision, Staff Sgt. Marcus Gilbert told Military Times, took hours of deliberation, but the top-10 hit of 1965 remains a meaningful classic for the chorus.
“It’s sort of an homage to the chorus of the past,” Spc. Oscar Roldan, who will be a soloist in tonight’s performance, told Military Times of the Motown hit. “Our brothers and sisters of the past chorus have always done this piece. ... It’s something we’re very good at and it’s a way to pay tribute to those that came before us.”
Based in Fort Liberty, North Carolina, the chorus represents the 19,000 soldiers who serve in the 82nd Airborne Division. The division specializes in forcible entry operations, during which soldiers parachute into areas to make way for further military operations. Soldiers of the 82nd are renowned for being able to deploy within 18 hours notice.
Tune into NBC Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. EST to see the performance and find out if the judges will advance the chorus into the next round of America’s Got Talent.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.