GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- More than a dozen singers took to the stage at Dealey Center, but only one winner claimed the top prize during the 2nd Annual Submarine Birthday Ball Sing-off held on Naval Submarine Base New London, March 22.
The winner, Laura McKee, a college student at Fairfield University, was honored to be selected to perform the national anthem at the 113th Southeastern Connecticut Submarine Force Birthday Ball April 13 at the MGM Grand Hotel at Foxwoods Resort.
"I am honored to be a part in the anniversary celebration, and I will do my best to pay tribute to all those who served and all those who serve today to keep our country safe," said McKee.
One of finalists, Brittney Longyear, who also competed last year, spoke of the pride she has for those serving in the military and paying tribute to their service by performing the national anthem.
"I had a great time and was very happy again to make it as one of the top three finalists," said Longyear. "The competition is a great way for passionate singers to come together for the opportunity to sing an anthem that is so symbolic, not only to those who will be attendees of the Submarine Ball, but to each citizen of the United States. To me, this has been a big deal, and I am very fortunate to have made it to the finals both years of the competition."
Longyear added that she recommends the competition to other singers.
"I highly recommend this competition to singers who are passionate about the national anthem, those serving our country and who want to be a part of a memorable night at the Submarine Birthday Ball," said Longyear.
This year, the finalists performing were a mixture of active-duty submariners or spouses of submariners, as well as civilians who all came together for one purpose to compete for an opportunity to perform the national anthem at the annual ball.
Of the 17 finalists originally picked to participate in the sing-off, four finalists were unable to attend the event. The finalists performing during the sing-off were: Stephanie Allyson Barry, ShaunaBeth Paradiso, Jackie Guerrera, Brittney Longyear, Yvette Mitchell, Noelle Pollack, Jamie Lassiter Salvatore, Bonnie Surowiec and Laura McKee.
Four active-duty submariners also competed, two of which competed last year and returned for a second chance to win the sing-off. They are Machinist's Mate 3rd Class (SS) Wesley Norton, assigned to Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS San Juan (SSN 751) and Yeoman 2nd Class Alex Kuen, assigned to the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Virginia (SSN 774).
Lt. Cmdr. Jeremiah Minner, former executive officer of Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) North Dakota (SSN 784) who has since transferred to Commander, Submarine Development Squadron Twelve, and Machinist's Mate Fireman (SS) Rudy Taylor, assigned to USS Toledo (SSN 769) also competed in the singoff.
Minner discussed sharing the stage with many talented singers for a sole purpose to find the best singer to perform the national anthem.
"The competition was strong, and all of the vocalists did a wonderful job. But in the end, Laura McKee sung perfectly," said Minner. "I am honored to have shared the stage with her and will be listening for her at the Submarine Birthday Ball and someday on the radio."
Minner was also pleased to hear country western singer Sean Patrick McGraw perform. McGraw, a former Nashville Star semi-finalist served as one of the judges and entertained the crowd after McKee was chosen as the sing-off winner.
"It was wonderful to hear Sean perform at the end of the competition," said Minner.
A four-person panel of judges consisting of McGraw; Capt. Dave Roberts, commanding officer, Naval Submarine School; Master Chief Musician Gregory W. Dudzienski, Navy Band Northeast Assistant Director, and Tom Russell, retired submarine veteran and chaplain of the SUBVETs Groton Base all came together to select McKee to perform the national anthem at the annual ball.
McKee's winning performance qualifies her to receive a complimentary ticket for two to attend the ball, as well as a one-night stay at the hotel during the night of the event.
The Southeastern Connecticut Submarine Force Birthday Ball Planning Committee is an all volunteer, non-federal entity not endorsed by the Department of Defense.
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