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Marine Hymns in Iraq
December 8, 2005

Jon Shelburne won’t deck the halls with boughs of holly with his family in Rhode Island this December 25.   He won’t journey west to go caroling with his parents and brother and sister in Amarillo, Texas either.

            Jon will be in Baghdad where he serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marines. 

            Wherever Jon is, though, we know he will be singing and bringing joy.  Jon, after all was born into a “singing family active in a singing church,” according to his dad, Gene Shelburne.  Gene’s been pastor of the Anna Street Church in Amarillo for the past 36 years. 

            Jon, who after many years in the Marines, has been teaching at the law school at Roger Williams University was called back into active service last spring.  Once he was in Baghdad, the Marines in his unit got to singing one night.  They did it mostly just to make themselves feel better and to take their minds off the grim circumstances surrounding them.

            They liked what they heard and decided to put together a male choral number for the next Sunday’s service at the base chapel.  That Sunday and the Sundays that followed.  They soon became an integral part of the services.

            One member of the unit is a professional choir director.  He got busy and sent home for music and started rehearsing the group. 

            All they needed now was a name, and they found the perfect one.  This group of Marines is now known as the Hard Corps Chorale!

            If you want to be inspired, then visit them at one of these two websites:

http://www.ahs57sandies.com/Iraq-1.html

http://www.ahs57sandies.com/Iraq-2.html

            And if you don’t have Internet access, try hard to find someone who does.  Everyone should get to share this experience!  Not only will you hear the Hard Corps Chorale sing, but you will see some fascinating pictures of Iraq, American service people and the inside of one of Saddam’s palaces!

            These aren’t professional recordings, they are recordings made with personal recorders. Chorale members made them on their own to send home to friends and family.  Some of the cuts are the practice sessions—all this makes the music even more special and moving.  I’ve played through both many times.  I still get tears in my eyes as I listen.

            How did I here in Southwest Georgia find out about these interesting men?  My high school friend Linda Clayton Hicks who lives near Boston sent me an e-mail with these links.  I immediately e-mailed Gene Shelburne, Jon’s dad, who is another high school buddy, asking him to fill me in and tell me more about Jon and the Hard Corps.

            Like his dad, Jon grew up in Amarillo and attended Amarillo High School.  While he was there he was quite a sportsman, playing on a state championship baseball team and captaining the basketball team.  But he was also president of the school choral group, the Bel Canto Chorale. 

            Jon went off to the University of Dallas.  When he finished there, he taught high school in nearby Irving for three years.  Then it was law school at Texas Tech and into the Marines. Jon and his family have lived all over the world as he pursued his Marine career.

            When they reached his assignment in Newport, Rhode Island, they liked it there, decided to settle down, and Jon accepted the position at Roger Williams.  After just about two years, Uncle Sam intervened, and now—you know the rest of the story.

            Dad Gene says they don’t know when to expect him home, but meanwhile they help to keep up his spirits (and energy level) by sending him “a hefty box of goodies at least every month.  Postage is expensive, and food tends to be heavy, but that doesn’t slow down the lady I live with.”  Gene goes on to tell about friends who own a Schlotzky’s store who donated 10 dozen premium cookies to the last shipment.  “Jon said the guys in his unit cleaned up those cookies like the locusts in the plagues of Egypt.”

            If you visit the Hard Corps Chorale via the Internet and want to send a message to Jon and the other men, drop me a line or an e-mail, and I’ll make sure it gets to his dad who will pass it along.

            Meanwhile, the Shelburnes aren’t the only ones sending off packages.  Here in Bainbridge folks are concerned about those who are serving in Iraq and elsewhere.  Out at Bainbridge College, the student community volunteer club, BC Cares, sponsored by Professor Jennifer Hobgood, has collected a variety of goods to fill holiday care packages for enlisted men and women from our area who serve in the armed forces overseas.  Some of the packages are already on their way, but if you know of any service people who would like to receive a message and remembrance from home, please let me know and I’ll get the names to Jennifer.

            It makes our own holidays more joyful when we remember these folks who are far away at this special time.   

            Thank you Jennifer, and Gene for all your caring actions.. Especially, thanks to Jon and his comrades.

           

Post-script: If you’re wondering about the web address, the Amarillo High School’s teams are known as The Golden Sandstorm—you can guess what the weather is like on the high plains of Texas.  Anyone who has attended the school is a Golden Sandie—like Gene and Jon and me.  Once a Sandie, always a Sandie!


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