An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

23rd AF shirt's penchant for singing goes national

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joe W. McFadden
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
Master Sgt. Jonathan Glover, 23rd Air Force first sergeant, had seen many National Basketball Association games on television in his life.

But never in his wildest dreams did he ever see himself standing at the center of a court for one of the most anticipated games of the year.

In front of thousands of fans and a television-viewing audience of five million, the Miami HEAT and Boston Celtics faced off Nov. 11 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami. The teams had met many times before, but the stakes of this game--claiming an early advantage in the eastern conference--never seemed higher.

But before the teams battled on the court, all the players stood in unison, placed their hands on their hearts and listened to a patriotic rendition of the national anthem. Members of the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy Color Guards stood in between the opposing teams to present both the service flags and a drawn-out American flag that took up nearly a quarter of the court.

And for that brief moment, the eyes and ears of the arena and television audience centered squarely not on basketball theatrics, but Sergeant Glover, the singer of the national anthem.

For the spectators, it was a solemn reminder of how that day--Veterans Day--pays tribute to the sacrifices American service members make every day. For Sergeant Glover, it was a rare honor to not only represent the Air Force, but all the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.

And yet Sergeant Glover said he knew his presence at the event may never have happened, had it not been for a few unlikely events.

"I really love singing, it's something I've always loved doing," he said. "And I've always wanted to help, but, in the nearly 20 years I've been in the Air Force, no one really knew I sang until I first stepped out a few years ago."

A singing enthusiast since he was a young boy, Sergeant Glover credited his piano-playing mother's "outgoing, outspoken and powerful singing voice" as his musical example. He began singing regularly at church and in the school choir in San Angelo, Texas.

After joining the Air Force in August 1991, he reserved his singing abilities for church, never volunteering for ceremonies or auditioning for Tops in Blue. Looking back on his singing career, Sergeant Glover recommended that Airmen who may not have stepped out of their comfort zones yet should seize the opportunity when they present themselves.

"If you have a talent, find a way to use it," Sergeant Glover said. "There are a lot of good singers out there, but not many come forward. The Air Force has lots of opportunities to use your talent whether it's singing, playing an instrument, writing or being in the honor guard. Use those talents and take those opportunities, but don't waste them."

And seizing the moment is just what Sergeant Glover did when he attended a planning meeting for the then-upcoming 1st Special Operations Mission Support Group change of command in July 2008. When the planners drew blanks on who would sing the national anthem, he put his own name into consideration.

"That's when I got a lot of looks like 'You? Seriously?'," Sergeant Glover said. "I guess I don't look like an everyday, average singer."

The panel's skeptics decided to have him sing a few bars, unsure if their suspect vocalist would potentially embarrass himself in front of more than 500 people at the real event. But as soon he finished Francis Scott Key's patriotic hymn, the doubters became convinced they had their singer.

"After that, they were like 'Hey, this guy can sing,'" he said. "And that's how it all started with the MSG ceremony, and it just snowballed into more and more requests after that."

He added his name to the 1st Special Operations Wing Protocol office's approved national anthem singer list, and he soon became inundated with engagements for retirements and induction ceremonies.

Airmen and civilians may recently have seen Sergeant Glover sing at the Combined Federal Campaign's mid-campaign rally at the Hurlburt Field Mini-Mall Oct. 19, the Community College of the Air Force graduation ceremony at the Soundside Club Nov. 10, and at Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster's induction into The Order of the Sword induction ceremony at the Emerald Coast Conference Center Nov. 19.

But his widest-viewed performance came as a result of the HEAT holding their 2010 Training Camp at Hurlburt Field Sept. 28 through Oct. 1. He first thought of broaching the subject after he saw Pat Riley, HEAT president and five-time NBA championship team coach, speak to Airmen at the Commando Auditorium Sept. 29.

Deciding against that, he soon came in contact with the HEAT's public relations team, who later invited him to sing at their Veterans Day game.In many cases, the broadcast does not include the singing of the national anthem. However, the circumstances of this occasion demanded its inclusion. Sergeant Glover and his wife Stephanie arrived at the arena two hours early for the sound check.

"I was a little nervous when I got inside the arena," Sergeant Glover said. "But once I did the sound check, I thought 'I got this.'"

While there, he watched the Celtic players, including Shaquille O'Neal, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, shoot hoops, and he even rubbed elbows with Dan Marino, former Miami Dolphins quarterback, and Glen Rice, former NBA All-Star player.

But when his time came to sing, he said he knew he could do well, just as he had done so many times before.

"I knew I could sing, but it was so surreal and phenomenal to be there," he said. "And I knew I wasn't there as just Jonny Glover. I was representing the Air Force and the Armed Forces on Veterans Day. There was no bigger honor for me than to have been able to have done that."