DENVER (CBS4) – He has sung the same song 949 times over the course of 23 years, and it never gets old. Jake Schroeder, who sings the national anthem at Colorado Avalanche home games said, ”It’s a big deal to sing the national anthem, and I would be mortified if I messed it up.”
With Veterans Day at hand, Schroeder told CBS4 how and why he thinks of his father every time he sings the anthem.
“He set the tone for me doing the anthem and showed me why it’s important,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder, 51, grew up in Boulder attending University of Colorado football games with his father and sister. He said he only saw his father cry twice, except when the national anthem was played at Colorado football games.
“Every time we were at the CU game, and the anthem played, my dad had tears running down his face. He didn’t talk to us about it, you know?” said Schroeder.
The singer said it was unsettling for him and his sister to see their dad so emotional, but the kids didn’t ask about it, and his dad didn’t discuss it until years later when he was suffering from pancreatic cancer and was near death.
At dinner one night, Schroeder and his sister asked about that childhood memory of their father crying during the anthem.
He told them it was connected to his military experience during the Vietnam war. He was stationed at an air force base in Okinawa. While it was far from the front lines, Jacob Schroeder III had an office that overlooked the tarmac at Kadena Air Base.
“He said every day the C-130s would fly in with the bodies of the kids that had been killed that day, and they would be offloaded and put on a transport to go home. And they played the national anthem while that process happened. It was about dead boys going back to their families to go be buried and every day seeing that — a lot of men killed in Vietnam — to think of seeing that every day outside your office, it doesn’t surprise me it made him emotional about it”.
Now, Schroeder says before every night when he sings the anthem before an Avalanche game, he thinks of his father and all the others who served in the military.
“I miss him you know?” he said with his voice catching and his eyes tearing up. Schroeder’s father died before he could see his son sing the national anthem at Colorado Avalanche games.
“I think he’d love this, and I think he’d like that I do this.”
When he sees military veterans at the games, Schroeder tells them he sings the anthem for them.
“I’m just proud to sing it. It means a lot to a lot of people. It means freedom to a lot of people.”
Schroeder says he doesn’t get nervous and has never forgotten the words. He says he does not do it for the adulation or the roar of the crowd.
“To me it’s about the anthem, and it’s about all of us — just a couple of minutes where we can all be together. For a majority of the country it’s a moment where we hope for the best for all of us and celebrate the guys who died.”