Off Beat: Singer steps in, belts out patriotic tune for general

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Linda Greep has had a lot of reasons to break into song:

… Because she was performing in a musical.

… Because it was a chance to record her first Christmas song.

… Because Gen. Colin Powell was expecting to hear "God Bless America."

Greep did release that Christmas CD single a few weeks ago. As she talked about achieving that longtime goal, Greep also mentioned other memorable performances in her vocal career.

They included what might be called a command performance in 1991 when the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs was in Vancouver for a national Medal of Honor convention.

Greep found herself among a group of dignitaries at the O.O. Howard House, including then-Mayor Bruce Hagensen; military officials from what was then Fort Lewis; and Powell, who went on to become U.S. Secretary of State.

As spokeswoman for Evergreen schools back then, Greep represented district shop students who had made two cannons marking the west end of Officers Row.

"A military band was there, playing music," Greep recalled. "As the ceremony concluded, the band was going to play 'God Bless America.' A veteran had been selected to sing it. Bruce, who was MC-ing the event in his role as mayor, called out the gentleman's name and no one came. He did it again."

Then Hagensen looked at her and announced, "Mrs. Greep will lead us in 'God Bless America.'"

"I just looked at the band conductor and he looked at me. He had no idea who this woman was. We hadn't rehearsed; I had no idea what key it was in.

"Bruce knew I could sing, but the conductor probably thought, 'This could be interesting.'

"They started playing, and I got through it and Colin Powell shook my hand."

"Thank gosh I knew the words," Greep said. "I've sung it for years, and every verse was in my head."-- Tom Vogt

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.