Parents & staff members of the Children's Cancer Center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan enjoy the AFCENT Band Wild Blue Country's performance. Members of the 376 AEW Medical Group, Tranist Center at Manas accompanied the band during their visit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Nathaniel III)
3-year old patient with leukemia from the Children's Cancer Center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan claps along to AFCENT Band Wild Blue Country's selections just after her chemotherapy treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Nathaniel III)
Technical Sgt. Tim Stombaugh, AFCENT Band Wild Blue Country percussionist, teaches Children's Cancer Center patients how to play instruments the band handed out. Each child got to keep an instrument of choice after their performance with Wild Blue Country. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Nathaniel III)
AFCENT Band Wild Blue Country pauses to have a special moment with patients & parents after their performance at the Children's Cancer Center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy Moless)
Technical Sgt. Stephen Brannen, AFCENT Band NCOIC, provides a quick guitar lesson to a patient at the Children's Cancer Center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to help keep his mind off from a chemotherapy treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)
Technical Sgt(s) Stephen Brannen & Tim Stombaugh from the AFCENT Band provide some personalized music and goodies for one of the patients at the Children's Cancer Center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)
Senior Master Sgt. Jerome Oddo, AFCENT Band Superintendant, sits with patient from the Children's Cancer Center during her chemotherapy session after impromtu performance in her room. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy Moless)
Commentary by Master Sgt. Janusz Masztalerz
AFCENT Band Sound Engineer
4/18/2011 - BISHKEK -- Children are the same all over the world. They laugh, smile, sing funny songs, love their parents and just want to be happy. But they also cry and you can see sadness in their beautiful eyes when they suffer.
We had seen lots of sadness in children's eyes when the AFCENT Band Wild Blue Country arrived at Children's Cancer Center in Bishkek. The little patients were shy and quiet while entering a small activity room where we set up for our performance. They simply did not know what to expect. Is it time for another, painful chemotherapy session? Are we foreign doctors that would give them some new medication? But suddenly they noticed all the various musical instruments!
They were still very quiet when the Band began to play the first song. But suddenly their eyes sparkled. Clearly, they could not understand the words to the song but they were just fascinated by the sound of our music. This was music they were not familiar with and probably had never heard before.
By the time the Band played the third country song, some children started to clap their little hands. The clapping was very, very gentle; they were almost afraid we may not like it and would stop playing.
That presented an awesome opportunity for us to do something extraordinary. We brought with us simple percussion instruments: shakers, drum sticks, little tambourines and handed them all to our very special audience. Suddenly, the next song was accompanied by an enthusiastic and spontaneous percussion orchestra! All children were playing along with emotions coming from the bottom of their hearts. They were laughing and smiling and I'm pretty sure that was the moment they forgot about their illnesses and suffering. For at least an hour, music was the best medicine--even more powerful than chemotherapy drugs.
After the performance, children invited us to their hospital rooms. With great help from 376 Air Expeditionary Wing Medical Group staff we gave each patient toys, candies, Wild Blue Country CDs and Air Force patches that they proudly attached to their jackets.
Even more importantly, we had a chance to interact with their parents who expressed deepest gratitude for our visit. It was a powerful reminder that we are all the same human beings and we will do anything possible for our children. My heart equally breaks when they suffer and there's not much I can do to relieve their pain.
As a band member, I am very grateful for the opportunity of bringing music and joy to lives of the patients at Children's Cancer Center in Bishkek. I will never forget that very emotional experience. It reminded me again that, despite all the wars and conflicts, children all over the world are the same. In their beautiful eyes you can see hope for better future for all of us.