Hanscom NCO sings national anthem, shares story of service dreams

  • Published
  • By Lauren Russell
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – A massive American flag unfurled behind her as she held on to the microphone.

Her pressed uniform, adorned with stripes and service ribbons, flashed across the jumbotron at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, as more than 70,000 fans fell silent, waiting for the first note. 

This was, by far, the largest stage that Staff Sgt. Zaria Beckford, 66th Medical Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Immunizations, had ever performed on. While she never imagined her military service would bring her here, she took a breath, and began to sing.

“I don’t remember the first time I sang; it’s just always been something I’ve done, and I love it,” said Beckford.

She grew up in Jamaica, and after graduating high school, Beckford made a solo move from her homeland to the U.S., where she was accepted to Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania.

“It was my dream to become a lawyer,” she said. Though it was not yet to be.

A teenager alone in a new country, Beckford was living in Connecticut with relatives without the financial backing to attend school. She was forced to decline her acceptance.

“I was heartbroken,” she said. “But I knew that sometimes, when we want to do ‘A,’ God needs us to complete ‘B,’ and ‘C’ before we can go back to ‘A.’”

Determined to find another way to reach her goals, Beckford enlisted in the U.S. Air Force for the education benefits and was selected as a medical technician. She served as a pediatric technician at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, while she attained her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of North Dakota.

Soon after, she was selected to specialize in allergy and immunology before arriving at Hanscom AFB in June.

“I really enjoy my work and the team here is solid,” she said.

While her goal is still to become a lawyer, she has continued to excel professionally while also taking on opportunities to sing.

At her previous assignment, Beckford volunteered to sing the national anthem at retirements and promotion ceremonies across the installation and has done the same at Hanscom AFB.

After she performed at an Airman Leadership School graduation ceremony here this summer, Beckford’s  name came up to officials who were looking for an airman to sing the anthem at the New England Patriots season opener.

“I’m amazed at the opportunities I’ve had; I never dreamed of these experiences when I was younger,” said Beckford. “But we make plans, and God laughs.”

At this point in her Air Force career, Beckford is backed by colleagues she views as family, as well as the benefits and information she says she needed to make her dreams a realty.

Beckford has applied for the Air Force Funded Legal Education Program; an opportunity for active-duty airmen to intern with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps before the Air Force covers the cost and fees of law school.

Having checked off items ‘B’ and ‘C,’ she said she is ready to return to ‘A.’

“I reapplied, and have been accepted into Penn State Dickinson Law School,” she said.  

 Beckford is slated to attend Dickinson Law in 2025.