Story and photo by Samantha B. Koss
Special to the Mountaineer
Fort Carson Operation Rising Star winner Varinia Herrera couldn’t believe she was one of 12 competitors selected for the Armywide Rising Star competition that begins Saturday at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
“I was so surprised when I received the phone call,” said Herrera, Family member who won the Fort Carson Operation Rising Star competition in September.
“I didn’t think I would be picked, considering all the vocalists who competed on posts around the world.”
Herrera has been singing in school and at church since she was in fourth grade, training herself by listening to her parents’ vinyl records.
“I like to say Steve Perry taught me how to sing,” she said about the lead vocalist from the band “Journey.”
“I used to sit in front of our record player singing along to my Journey albums over and over … I think I even warped two of them.”
Herreras’ dedication to singing continued through her adult life with voice lessons and singing competitions. In 2010, Herrera placed second in the Fort Carson Operation Rising Star Competition. At that time her husband, Sgt. Porsirio Herrera, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was deployed to Afghanistan and her daughter, Isabela, now 8, had recently undergone a liver transplant.
“Just getting to sing on stage was a huge release for me,” she said. “I literally went to the competition from the hospital and headed straight back afterward to be with my daughter.”
This year, her daughter is healthy and her husband is back from deployment.
“For me, this is kind of like a reality check … seeing how far my Family and I have come,” Herrera said. “Just to be picked as one of the final 12 is an amazing experience to have put in front of me.”
Herrera traveled Sunday to Fort Sam Houston where she began rehearsing with the other Family members and Soldiers from around the world to battle in the Army’s premier vocal competition. The top finalists will need audience votes to help advance them to each round of the competition.
Competitions will air Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Dec. 17 on the Pentagon Channel and the Operation Rising Star website, http://www.oprisingstar.com. Herrera’s supporters can vote for her online after each show and the votes will count for 50 percent of her final score with the other half coming from judges.
“They told us to keep in shape vocally because we will be singing six-eight hours a day during rehearsal,” Herrera said. Each contestant will receive suggestions to improve his talent before performing 90-seconds of a song in the competition.
“It is scary knowing you have only 90 seconds to show your vocal quality,” she said. “I’m excited and nervous, but still, I’m just so happy to have this opportunity … it is amazing.”
The winner will fly to Los Angeles to record a three-song CD and will receive $1,000. Fans of Herrera can follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/vh.oprisingstar.