Chorus becomes way for veterans to connect

  • Published
  • By Patty Welsh
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
Sometimes when a military member moves into the local civilian community, he or she might have a hard time getting to know people. But Lt. Col. Bruce Lambert, Air Force Research Laboratory program manager for space weather research, found a unique way to connect.

Colonel Lambert is a member of the Leominster, Mass.,-based International Veterans Chorus. The group consists entirely of veterans, whether they are active duty, National Guard or reservists. All of the U.S. services are represented, and they welcome international veterans as well. One member served in the British Army, while another served in the Hungarian Army. Colonel Lambert has been a member for almost a year.

"When we moved to Leominster in the summer of 2009, my family and I met Donna Allard, the director of the chorus, at different times and she was a heavy recruiter, talking it up," Colonel Lambert said. "I resisted because I had not sung in a while, but then I heard about one of the veterans [from the chorus] passing away and I thought I should get involved to get to know these folks."

Colonel Lambert said he often tells the company grade officers here at Hanscom that it's important to get to know veterans before we lose them.

"The chorus is a wonderful way to meet people," said Ms. Allard. "The military move so often they don't have a chance to get to know people, and this is a great way to meet people in the community."

Although the veterans in the chorus don't necessarily like to talk about themselves, Colonel Lambert said he is learning their stories from others. One member served in World War II, Korea and retired during Vietnam. Another who had been shot in the chest during the Vietnam War recently finished the Army 10-miler run.

"The best part of belonging to the chorus is getting to know the other veterans and the camaraderie," said Colonel Lambert. "It's important we hear their stories."

According to Ms. Allard, the members like hearing from the colonel as well.

"The members admire and respect him," she said. "We think of the chorus as a family, and now Bruce has a whole new family."

The chorus, which began in 2002, currently has 38 members, but is always welcoming more. The only requirement to join is to be a veteran. Current ages of the members range from 46 to 89.

"We don't require people to audition, but we do want members who want to have fun, but will also work hard," said Ms. Allard.

Rehearsals take place on Thursday evenings at the Leominster Veterans Center, usually two to three times per month. The group performs at local events mostly in north central Massachusetts, singing patriotic and seasonal songs.

One event that the colonel thought was specifically touching was the White Cross Ceremony that is held annually for Memorial Day in Leominster. The White Cross Ceremony remembers those who are buried overseas, were buried at sea or are missing in action.

"It's amazing to be able to bring emotions to other people," said Colonel Lambert. "When we perform songs such as 'The Ballad of the Green Berets,' and 'In Flanders Field,' it's hard to watch the audience because of the emotions."

As the colonel is retiring from active duty this spring, the chorus got a unique opportunity to perform at his ceremony last Friday.

"It's great to be able to share something like that," said Colonel Lambert.

After his retirement from active duty, the colonel hopes to return to service at the Electronic Systems Center as a government civilian employee.

Anyone seeking more information about or seeking to join the International Veterans Chorus, may contact Ms. Allard via e-mail at