KEEP LIVING

Wife's song provides encouragement to spouse, others during separation
by John Ingle, Editor, The Sheppard Senator

They always seem to show a woman standing at a gate clinging to her children as her husband walks away. Heather Wagner was that woman five months ago when her husband, Tech. Sgt. James Wagner, an F-16 crew chief instructor at the 362nd Training Squadron, was sent on a one-year remote tour.

Not long before he left, the husband and wife were watching news footage of soldiers from Fort Sill, Okla., leaving for a deployment. The videographer captured the scene of a wife with children saying their good-byes as tears streamed down their faces.

Ms. Wagner said she could tell the difficulties of saying good-bye weighed heavy on her husband's heart. “I don't want you to look at this and think this is what we're going to be doing,” she said she explained to her husband of seven years.

“I could see it was still bothering him.” She wanted him to know that life will go on even though he is half a world away. That's why she wrote the song “Keep Living,” scheduled to release sometime in early 2006.

“I wanted to let my husband know that things are going to be all right,” she said. During one of the many phone conversations following his departure, Ms. Wagner said she told Sergeant Wagner she wrote a song for him. She sung it to him on the phone and helped set his mind at ease regarding how the family was holding up during his absence.

The song was intended to convey the thoughts of so many families faced with long deployments or remote tours. Ms. Wagner said she wanted to the song to give her husband a peace of mind and the ability to focus on his job and mission without wondering if his family was okay.

“I consider this my way of serving,” she said. Keep Living didn't stop living with the Wagners. Ms. Wagner said a friend of hers was having a hard time coping with the departure of her spouse. The two talked for a while and Ms. Wagner told the woman of the song she wrote. She, too, heard the mezzo-soprano sing the words of getting by while a service member was gone. She, too, felt encouraged by the simple, but powerful words.

Through word of mouth, news about the song reached other spouses and requests came in for copies of the 27-year-old's home recording of the song. “People I didn't know were knocking on my door,” she said.

After realizing the song could have a far-reaching affect on more spouses in the same situation, she turned to her father for financial support in having the track professionally recorded. With the help of her father and a friend from college, Ms. Wagner was able to work with Send Me Productions in Dallas to have the single produced. “It's not my ambition to be a singer,” she said, adding she would like to stay home with her three children, Kallie, 6, Ryan, 4, and Joshua, 1, and write music. “It just fell into my lap.”

The single is due to come out within the next couple of weeks, but pre-release orders can be made at <a href=“www.heatherwagner.com”. People can hear a sample of the song at the Web site, too.

Ms. Wagner has also teamed up with Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization that helps out military families. “My goal is to be able to write them a check for $50,000,” she said.

Her purpose now is to encourage as many spouses as possible who might have difficulties with the deployment of a service member. But, if Keep Living provides any indication, Ms. Wagner could provide that support for a very long time.

© 2005 Heather Wagner