Submitted by: Erinn Diaz
Eight years ago, I was sitting around the dinner table on a Sunday night with my family when my dad, a veteran of the United States Coast Guard, said “You’ve got to do a show for veterans!” He then proceeded to go to his combination turntable and 8-track player and started pulling out all of his old favorite records from the 1940’s era. We listened to the Andrews Sisters, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and so many more that evening, and the spark was ignited.
It was that night that Letters From Home was born; a 1940’s singing, tap-dancing and audience interactive show with a mission: to honor our veterans, active military heroes and their families by reviving patriotism through music for all generations.
We are now in our eighth year of performing as Letters From Home, and though the performers who sing and dance alongside me have changed throughout the years, the spirit of patriotism in the performances has only grown stronger. We have performed all over the country, on track to hit all 50 states by the end of next year, and to perform internationally as well. Among our favorite venues are American Legions.
While the singing and dancing is fun, the true joy that I take away from performing the show are the smiles and memories that we get to share with the audience. Every service man and woman deserves to be honored and feel like his or her service meant something, because it did. It doesn’t matter if you were in the back offices or on the front lines, through every Letters From Home performance, we try our best to honor every branch and era of the United States Armed Forces and their families.
My dad, unfortunately, passed away three years ago now, but every time we get to perform the show, it is a part of his amazing Legacy.
Music has a power of truly digging deep and pulling long-lost memories. In Dad’s name, we started the “Pat Dearth Veterans Performance Fund” which allows us to travel to places like Veterans Homes and VA Hospitals all over the country. 100 percent of all of our sales from CDs, T-shirts and pictures goes directly to this fund. Even though we frequently perform on stages in front of thousands of people, my favorite places are definitely those homes with the older veterans who are often no longer able to get out as much. I have seen dementia patients remember the full lyrics to a song, I have seen elderly couples grab hands and lovingly gaze into each other’s eyes during “I’ll be Seeing You,” I even saw a man at a VA Hospital stand up to give me a hug and found out later that it was the first time he had stood up by himself in over 3 years.
We are now on tour with Letters From Home so much, we recently gave up our apartment, and officially live as “nomads”, going from place to place, all over the country, bringing the message of patriotism. And because of this unique privilege I get to see first hand the greatness that our nation is truly all about. Every time we turn on the news or go to our facebook pages, all we hear is the bad news. But getting to tour and see things with my own two eyes, I can guarantee you that the only reason that you hear so much about the bad and negative is because that is the EXCEPTION. There is so much good, the media couldn’t possibly cover it all. The rule is that patriotism is alive, there is much more good than evil, and we truly do live in the best country in the world.
About the author:
Erinn Diaz has been working in the entertainment industry since she was barely walking, and has been involved in over 300 theatrical productions nationwide, produced hundreds of events across the country, worked on board cruise ships, toured with Cirque productions, and has been seen in several TV shows and movies. Erinn is the creator, director and choreographer of Letters From Home, and spends over 250 days a year on the road, honoring veterans, active military and their families by reviving patriotism through music. From a small garage office in 2008, Erinn passionately founded First in Flight Entertainment, an event production and entertainment company that now has offices in North Carolina and Chicago, and produces year-round events in all 50 states. First in Flight Entertainment is also the creator and an owner of Shore Club Chicago. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Erinn founded the non-profit organization, Spring Theatre in 2013, and produces inspiring youth and community theatrical productions year round. With partner Rosina Whitfield, Erinn created the NC Triad Theatre League, a non-profit alliance of theatrical organizations dedicated to collaboration for the arts. Erinn is also a published author, playwright, motivational speaker, and lover of life.