Tops In Blue bring two Luke musicians home
By Tech Sgt. Shawn McCowan, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 08, 2006
LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
Every year 34 Air Force men and women are chosen to leave their day-to-day military jobs and become Air Force entertainers as members of Tops In Blue.
During the 2006-2007 season, two of those entertainers took a year away from their jobs here at Luke.
Before joining the Tops In Blue team, Staff Sgt. Tenisia Jones, a vocalist, was an information manager with the 56th Component Maintenance Squadron.
These days she smiles with anxious anticipation before taking the stage, but just a few years ago she was given news that nearly ended her career and made her fear for her life.
In 2001, Sergeant Jones was given a shocking test result after a routine checkup. She was diagnosed with cancer. After the initial shock subsided she fell into depression.
"I couldn't believe it was happening. I was a pretty upbeat person. I enjoyed my military job. I loved listening to music and dancing. Suddenly I didn't want to go to work or put on a uniform or even leave my room," said Sergeant Jones.
Chemotherapy treatments were working and doctors had hopes for a complete recovery, but her depression continued as she suffered its terrible side-effects.
"I was ready to leave the military."
"Nothing mattered to me anymore because I lost hope. I had first sergeants and friends telling me not to give up, but the words just sounded like a recording of some briefing to me."
One night her coworkers and friends managed to get her to join them at a Tops In Blue concert. Their message was music to her ears.
Ultimately, it was her love of music that helped save her. And she credits Tops In Blue for giving her something to fight for.
"The music spoke to me so much more than any spoken words. Their message was so inspiring and positive. As the show went on I tried to keep from smiling because I was used to frowning, but I couldn't. By the end of the concert I was crying, but not because I was sad. I felt the desire to keep trying.
"Tops In Blue saved my career. Their music and message gave me something to fight for."
Sergeant Jones fought and won. She stayed in the military. She beat her cancer, and she decided to give back to those who helped her.
"I owe this team so much. I'm so happy to be here to return the favor to this program. I hope just one person out there is inspired the way I was."
While Sergeant Jones tuned her voice back stage, another Luke Airman was tuning a trombone.
Airman 1st Class Zachary McGehee is an aircraft metal technologist with the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron. Although he will be going back to that job later this year, he recently turned in his metal cutter for a trombone.
Airman McGehee has been a musician for years and was excited to add it to his military career.
"I've always loved music and I've really enjoyed every opportunity to play in musical organizations. Being a part of Tops In Blue is the top of the mountain for me. I can't believe I'm able to be a part of this. It's a huge honor and I'll never forget the experiences I've had as a part of this group," said Airman McGehee.
He admits that there is a lot of work involved in being a member of Tops In Blue, but he also says it's a chance of a lifetime.
"This is probably the hardest thing I've ever done. We're on the road performing nearly every day and we never stop moving. This looks like fun to the crowd, but it takes a whole lot of teamwork to make it look easy to our audience."
Even though there are long days and a tough schedule, he says seeing the world and performing for his Air Force family is worth all the effort.
As the two Airmen from Luke took the stage with the Tops In Blue at the Maricopa County Events Center near Phoenix, the applause they met was not only a welcome to a new show -- it was a warm welcome home.