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OPINION: Not your typical national anthem

by Doug Chastain Random Recollections | September 6, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

I was working the microphone and the scoreboard at a volleyball game a few weeks ago and was able to observe one of those "special moments" that often happen in the world of the perspiring arts. What's interesting is that this particular moment happened before the match even began.

Following Arkansas law, we begin athletic contests with the pledge of allegiance, a moment of silence, and then the national anthem. Folks usually participate enthusiastically in reciting the pledge, but the national anthem is more problematic. I have a canned version of The Star-Spangled Banner on an iPad but, after listening to hundreds of repetitions of the same synthetic arrangement, you begin to long for something different.

And this night, we got to hear something different. I looked across the court a few minutes before the match began and saw that one of the game officials was none other than Rebecca Ault. That's former Siloam Springs coach, teacher and choral director Rebecca Ault, Praise Team vocalist at New Life Church Rebecca Ault. To say that her appearance was providential was an understatement. So I asked her if she would do us the honor of singing the National Anthem, She agreed.

And when the time came for her to give us her rendition, we were not disappointed. She has an unpretentious approach to the song but yet a powerful and moving delivery. (So many singers use the song to show off their vocal abilities and lose the message of the song in the process.) It was a great moment.

But something else was happening behind me while Rebecca was singing that was interesting and moving as well. Siloam Springs athletic trainer Sky LeAnne Sexton was signing the words of the song using ASL (American Sign Language).

I have some familiarity with sign language. Twenty-five years ago, I was part of the sign language ministry of a large church in central Arkansas. And I can tell you with certainty that standing in front of a large gathering of people and signing is a test of your nerve and your focus. I have known a few people to whom that skill seems to come naturally but, for the rest of us, constant practice is required and, even then, you're shaking in your shoes when the time comes to use your skill in a practical way.

That's why I'm impressed with Sky's willingness to do what she did that night and hope that she continues to hone her skills and become more proficient in ASL communication. (And now that I think about it, ASL is a skill that more of us should learn. Members of the deaf community are generally appreciative of folks who genuinely try to communicate with them in public settings, even if we're not exactly skillful in doing so.)

Oh, and speaking of "special moments," the Lady Panther volleyball team took Pea Ridge in straight sets that night and, as of this writing, are 5-4 with wins over Gravette, Greenbrier, Springdale and Carthage, Missouri, as well. They are fun to watch so, if you have the opportunity, come out to the Panther Activity Center the next time they have a match. You won't be disappointed.

Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and is currently a large-vehicle transportation specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (Okay, he drives a bus.) He is also a grass maintenance technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at dougcha[email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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