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Combat veterans make beautiful harmony as 4TROOPS

By Shanon Cook, CNN
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From war to warbling
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 4TROOPS made up of military veterans
  • Singers served in Iraq, Afghanistan; formed quartet to raise money for charity
  • One member, Daniel Jens, was on "America's Got Talent" two years ago
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New York (CNN) -- Don't be fooled by the fatigues and combat boots. The members of the group 4TROOPS just want to blow you away with their angelic voices.

Four former U.S. combat veterans -- three men, one woman -- have joined forces to honor their fellow service members through Boyz II Men-like harmonies. Sony Masterworks will release the quartet's debut album April 20.

"A lot of people don't think that troops can sing or dance or act or any of that thing," said Meredith Melcher, 29, who served as a platoon leader in Iraq, where she helped evacuate wounded troops. "I think a lot of people would be surprised that the military has a lot of programs directed towards promoting the entertainment of troops ... which is a really good outlet for troops who are creative."

A lot of people might also be surprised to learn that the military has its own version of "American Idol."

Ron Henry, 41, a 20-year Army veteran who served as a transport manager in Iraq, participated in Operation Rising Star, which he describes as a sort of "Military Idol."

Both Melcher and David Clemo, 30, who served on the front lines in Afghanistan, took part in the U.S. Army Soldier Show, a touring musical and dance program that entertains soldiers and their families (Clemo was its production director for three years).

Then there's Daniel Jens, 36, who also served in Iraq and was released from the Army in January. A Paul McCartney fan who sang in rock bands growing up, he placed 11th on the TV show "America's Got Talent" in 2008.

The four describe their career switch from veterans to recording artists as "unreal," though they're discovering some similarities between their past and present jobs.

"We call it 'hurry up and wait,' where you're there really early, and you're ready for it, but you've got to wait for things to be set up a little bit," Clemo said. "But then when it does happen, it happens fast. That's one thing we can relate to well."

The group's album is a collection of mostly pop and country covers like Lonestar's "I'm Already There," Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" and Toby Keith's post-September 11 song "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue." Proceeds from sales of the album will go to various Army-related charities.

And 4TROOPS will hit the road this month to perform at military bases, with a national tour planned for the fall.

Although these good-natured veterans appear to be above the squabbling and infighting that goes with being in a band, they've determined who might be the most high-maintenance.

"Ron's the biggest diva, because he has the most luggage, and he takes the longest to get ready," Melcher said. "I probably come in second."

"They're always waiting on me," Henry conceded, stating that he prefers the term divo to diva. "It's just because I'm tall, and I'm large, so I have the biggest suitcase. I wear size 17 shoes, so after three pairs go in, the suitcase is full."

 
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