Although an avid musician, one Airman left the world of music behind to join the Air Force and to serve God and his country. He thought it would be a long time before he played an instrument again, but another Airman asked him to to accompany him in a poetry reading.
“One of my co-workers was doing a spoken-word history presentation and he asked me to accompany him,” said Airman 1st Class Austin Shrewsbury, 56th Medical Support Squadron medical laboratory apprentice. “I used to play music during worship service, and he talked about me playing music in the background of his presentation. I told him yes, and he said, ‘That would be awesome.’”
Shrewsbury picked up his first guitar at age 14 after his older brother was paralyzed in a car accident.
“My brother was incredibly great at the guitar,” Shrewsbury said. “He was like a prodigy and he got hit by a car when he was 12. The accident left the left side of his body paralyzed.”
After the accident, Shrewsbury realized just how much music meant to his brother and began looking for ways to help him play again.
“He really loved music,” Shrewsbury said. “I would watch videos of him playing in talent shows and competitions and you could see in his eyes he was really happy back then. I wanted to see if I could get that back for him, so I started having him teach me how to play.”
Shrewsbury’s brother taught him first how to play the mandolin, then the bass guitar and finally the acoustic guitar.
“It’s like he’s playing vicariously through me, which is the reason I started playing music,” he said.
Shrewsbury recalls how music has always been a part of his life growing up.
“I was pretty active in my church youth group, and I loved to sing,” he said in a thick West Virginian accent. “My whole family sings, so one thing led to another, and I started playing music in at church. I also started a small band called Rock Side Worship. Once music was introduced to my family, it was like throwing a match on a stack of hay.”
Shrewsbury, who plays bass guitar, guitar and piano for the Sunday contemporary gospel service at the Luke Air Force Base chapel, can’t see himself being where he is today without music and his faith. For him, the two make him who he is.
“Playing music is like breathing,” he said. “It’s something I have to do. It makes me feel like I am praising God the way I am supposed to, because he gave me the talent. There isn’t any point in using it for any other reason than to make him happy.”
Airman 1st Class Christopher Malone, 56th MDSS medical laboratory apprentice, got Shrewsbury to pick up his guitar again. He believes his faith is the reason he is such a good musician.
“I think it’s more his faith than his music that makes him the person he is, and he probably would say he gets his talent from his faith,” Malone said. “They go hand in hand. He probably has the most musical talent on this base. I don’t know if you would say he’s a prodigy, but he’s very talented. My video would have been nothing if it wasn’t for Shrewsbury.”