COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- With a range of one-and-one-half octaves, the "Star-Spangled Banner" is widely considered a difficult song to sing. It's even more challenging to do so in front of an audience of current and former military spectators awaiting the start of an athletic event at the 2013 Warrior Games. But former Soldier Tony Jasso did just that, immediately following the United Kingdom's national anthem, "God Save The Queen." Jasso, who served in Iraq as a combat medic at the 31st Combat Support Hospital, said he felt "butterflies" in his stomach before the performance. But when he sang, he hit the highs and lows just right, and got a huge ovation from the spectators here. The sporting event was the elimination round of wheelchair basketball. Teams represented each branch of the U.S. military as well as Special Operations Command. A team from the United Kingdom also competed. All competitors are current or former servicemembers with injuries, illnesses or wounds. While a former Soldier, Jasso's job at the games is to train the Air Force team. He works with the athletes and many others throughout the year as program manager for Warrior Adaptive Sports at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in San Antonio, Texas.
Although Jasso is not himself a wounded warrior, he said he shares with many wounded warriors the profound effects of combat experience. He said his combat experience numbed him physically, psychologically, emotionally and even spiritually and that when he returned home it was hard to relate to people, even his own family. But with family support and encouragement, music and work, he said he was able to pull through and now wants to continue to help other veterans. But why sing? "It's on my bucket list," he said. And, he added, "Singing the anthem is something I've always wanted to do to honor the vets and my country, so I muscled up enough guts to do it." The request was made via email for volunteers, he said, and no one else responded. Jasso was notified that he'd sing just 15 minutes prior to the event. That didn't give him much time to prepare and the butterflies started to fly, he said. Beside the high and low notes, he worried about mixing up the lines of the anthem. So Jasso downed a glass of warm water and steeled himself for the performance. He said singing at home to his family helped. Also, he said he's "one of those baritones who can go tenor or base" so that helped him reach the high and low notes. He also has a powerful voice. What else is on Jasso's bucket list and why does he even have one? The list, he said, includes traveling to such places as Stonehenge and Rio de Janeiro with his family. "After combat, you see how fast life can be taken from you and after coming back to the States you see how fast time goes by, so I decided to make a bucket list," he said. He said he can now cross off the No. 1 item on that list.