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DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Silent anticipation hung heavy in the air as Col. Kevin Murphy tightened his ankle wraps. Years of deployments and physical training tests had taken their toll.
As his fingers methodically fastened the straps, he cast a distant, downward gaze, quietly rehearsing the plan.
"Get ready!" called a voice, followed by the thuds of excited footsteps.
The 436th Medical Group commander stood up, quickly drew a breath, and then braced himself.
There was silence.
Then, from the back of the room, exploded - "Ooh baby, baby!"
Murphy began rhythmically hip-thrusting as Shondelle Graulich, his dance instructor, began to cha-cha toward him.
"Ah, push it! Push it good!"
"Five, six, seven, eight," called Graulich as the pair leapt and kicked, jazz-fingers in full force.
The two became a spinning mass of limbs as Murphy spun like a top with Graulich in tow.
"Get up on this!"
The spins got faster and faster until the beat was lost, and the winded dancers gave in to laughter.
"Come on Kevin, let's try it one more time," said the dance instructor, panting.
"Alright," the commander said with a smile.
Murphy and Graulich would repeat that routine again and again in preparation for their big debut: Dancing with the Delaware Stars to benefit Mom's House of Dover, taking place at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at Dover Downs Hotel.
Mom's House offers single parents the opportunity to continue their education by providing childcare services free of charge. DWTDS is a judged dance contest during which community leaders throughout Delaware seek to generate revenue through ticket sales. The non-profit organization does not accept government funding; their primary source of funding is the dance contest.
"That's why I am happy my wife volunteered me for this: without support from the community, Mom's House could not offer their services in return," Murphy said. "I think it is our responsibility as service members to offer community members the same opportunities we enjoy. The Air Force provides childcare services for us; Mom's House does so for our friends downtown."
The Chicago native said that, when he was first told he had been volunteered, he was incredulous.
"I hoped it was a joke; my only experience dancing consisted of the "sprinkler," "running man" and some MC Hammer moves," said Murphy. "But once I was told their cause, I knew it was the right thing to do. It's two minutes of potential embarrassment to possibly change a life."
Shortly thereafter, Murphy was paired up with Graulich, the 2012 DWTDS winner, and began developing a routine that, Murphy said, is sure to entertain.
"Shondelle and I decided that a formal dance, like a waltz, might put people to sleep; we wanted to spice it up. I think people are going to love it."
So far, initial responses are favorable.
"(Murphy's) routine is looking great, and we really appreciate him putting himself out there and supporting our cause," said Terri Brown, board president of Mom's House.
And while supporting the education of single parents throughout Delaware is Murphy's top priority, he is also hoping for a little bit more.
"Of course, it's about the cause," Murphy said . "But I'd also like to win."