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Striking a chord in the community

Person playing piano

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vivian C. McGhee, 1st Air Force national security for emergency preparedness personnel specialist, plays the piano at the Clifford Chester Sims Nursing Home, Aug. 29, 2018. McGhee volunteers her time singing and playing gospel music at various senior citizen homes around the Panama City, Fla., area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Solomon Cook)


As the sun of the mid-afternoon hours beams through the blinds of the Clifford Chester Sims Nursing Home, the mood is of a warm, loving home. Residents gather in a room, many wearing veterans’ hats of various wars and conflicts. They gather, not to tell war stories, but to listen to the sound of gospel music from the piano and melodic voice of an Airman.

Part of the whole Airman concept is immersing into the surrounding community and giving back. Staff Sgt. Vivian C. McGhee, 1st Air Force national security for emergency preparedness personnel specialist, reaches back to her upbringing to give her time in the language she knows best – the language of music. 

“Ever since I was a child, my parents would take my sisters and me, and we would visit the local nursing homes,” she explained. “My older sisters would play the piano. My father and I would sing songs. It is something that was instilled in me as a child and I love doing it now. Growing up, it was a chore, but as I grew older, I appreciated it more.”

After growing up, she began to find it more and more important to take time out for the elderly, hoping that paying it forward will return dividends as she herself will eventually move into her golden years.

McGhee makes an effort to visit not just the Sims Nursing Home once a week, but others within the Panama City area, primarily on the weekend. Although she goes to the same place frequently, the people she performs for don’t always remember her.

“To tell you the truth, it’s not about people knowing my name, knowing my name isn’t important. I just want them to know they are cared for, and they are loved. They do know my face, and they can remember this Alabama drawl that I have,” she said with a heartfelt chuckle.

As McGhee concluded with her thoughts of giving back, she elaborated on her personal ethos in regards to volunteering in the capacity she currently does.

“The niche in volunteerism is knowing that it can be a choice; however, volunteering comes with a call to serve,” McGhee said. “Especially with spending time with our veterans, we need to serve those who have served us. They laid the path for us. That is why I find it very important to go back and give of my time to the veterans.”