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Freeland man sings way onto prestigious veterans chorus

Standard-Speaker - 10/18/2017

Oct. 18--Freeland resident Robert Rushalk was chosen to sing with the chorus during the upcoming National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Buffalo, New York.

He earned the honor after he scored a gold medal in the Veterans Creative Arts competition held by the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Plains Twp.

"I consider it the USO tour I always dreamed about," said Rushalk, a U.S. Air Force veteran.

Rushalk won first place in the senior division of drama monologue for his performance of Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol."

Performances of local medalists are taped and sent to VA officials for judging and the selection of national winners.

Rushalk is one of two veterans from Pennsylvania chosen to participate in the 100-member chorus, he noted.

"I'm honored that I was chosen and will get to sing with veterans from across the United States," he said.

Festival organizers mailed him copies of the songs the chorus will perform. He plans to familiarize himself with them before the trip, he said.

"I'll meet with the rest of the people when I get there and we'll have practices," he said.

Rushalk is no stranger to the stage.

He sings at St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church and with the Freeland Community Choir, and has had roles in number of plays over the past several years. With the Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts (PTPA), Rushalk most recently played Clarence in "A Wonderful Life" and has acted in "Hairspray," "Noises Off," "1776" and "Titanic."

He cooks, too

At the PTPA, he also volunteers his time to cook on performance nights.

He also has performed with the MPB (Most Precious Blood) Players.

Rushalk has competed in the veterans creative arts competition over the past several years. He has won medals before but this is his first gold, he said.

"There are all kinds of categories to enter," he explained. "There is woodworking, metal working and painting."

Any veteran who is connected to a VA hospital can enter this competition, which is held annually in March at VA hospitals across the country. Rushalk hoped other veterans would get involved.

-- JILL WHALEN

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(c)2017 the Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pa.)

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