BRADENTON -- The recent homecoming for John Scheiding was under way when somebody signaled for quiet inside his parents’ crowded home.
Wearing a beret and garb of the Patriot Guard Riders, Sharon Lee Ruckle began to sing:
“American soldier, I will stand up for you
“Defender of country and the red, white and blue ...”
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A respectful silence filled the house as Ruckle, 66, sang acapella.
“I can hear freedom ring, I sleep peaceful at night.
“Knowing you’re ready, to stand up and fight...”
At the end of the song, Ruckle received warm applause.
Dan O’Connell, Scheiding’s stepfather and a former Marine, was among those moved by the song.
“If you had a dry eye in that house, there was something wrong with you,” he said. “You have a Marine who has just come home, everything’s emotional, it was capped off by this song.”
That’s what Ruckle hoped for when she wrote, “Tribute, A Military Anthem,” about six months ago.
The St. Louis native would love to see the song catch on nationwide, but in the early going, she is heartened by the response it has received at various veterans’ events.
“It’s been awesome. Cheers, tears, hugs,” she said. “When they say, ‘Thank you,’ I say, ‘No, thank you!’” The idea for the song came from a conversation after Ruckle sang “God Bless America” at an event at American Legion Post 312 in Oneco.
“They said all the songs we sing are about the country -- “Star-Spangled Banner,” “America,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” All these awesome songs celebrate our country and our flag, but what about our troops?
“I got to thinking about that. They were right. We wouldn’t have a flag to wave, or a country to sing about if it wasn’t for the military. They’re the ones who died, the ones who sacrificed.”
A singer since 12 who wrote songs and poetry, Ruckle penned the words and melody to “Tribute” over several weeks, then sang it for Stacy Rhodes at VFW Post 6287 in Ruskin.
A truck driver and former Marine, the Columbia, S.C., native has sung at area honky tonks and veterans clubs for 20 years.
“The hairs on my arms just stood up when she sang it,” said Rhodes, 49. “As soon as I heard it, I knew she’d hit a home run saluting our military, the perfect salute to a veteran.”
They performed it together for the first time in May after a Hearts to Heroes Motorcycle Run supporting a wounded Marine veteran at his Dade City home.
“We were surrounded by the hardiest of bikers, the biggest of men and all had tears in their eyes,” Rhodes said. “The song moves even the biggest and the baddest.”
They’ll perform it July 4th at Ellenton’s AMVETS Post 301.
Ruckle has had requests for CDs from officers at MacDill Air Force Base to members of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.
Del Couch thinks he can make Ruckle’s song even better.
The veteran musician will re-record it at his Howling Dog Studios in Palmetto.
“It’s uplifting and has great meaning,” Couch said. “It just needs a better background, more of military-style music, that will lift the song. It has potential for commercial consumption.”
But that’s not what drove Ruckle to write this song and have it copyrighted.
“I’d be thrilled just to have this anthem accepted,” she said. “If I never made a dime on it, it doesn’t matter to me. If I did, I’d look for ways to help veterans.
“What matters is soldiers hear this, that somebody cares enough about them and what they do for our country.”