|Soldier’s little sister sings in YouTube hit|
Cindy Martin accompanies her 6-year-old daughter, Heather, who loves to sing.
A UMNS photo by John Gordon.
By Barry Simmons*
Feb. 12, 2007 | CACHE, Okla. (UMNS)
Six-year-old Heather Martin, accompanied only by her mother on piano,
has become an overnight Internet sensation for a song performed at
their rural Oklahoma church.
Written for her brother Shaun serving in Iraq, the song became one of
YouTube's most requested videos of all time in December after a member
at Cache First United Methodist Church recorded and posted Heather's
performance on the video-sharing Web site. The video had received 1.7
million hits as of early February.
Heather Martin hugs her
brother, Shaun, during the
days before the soldier
was deployed to Iraq.
Photo courtesy of
the Martin family.
"My friend called me Christmas Eve and she says, 'They've featured
your video and the numbers are just going up and up,'" Cindy Martin said
of her daughter's video. "She said, 'It's going to snowball.' And sure
enough, she was right. It's snowballed."
Since then, the song has aired on radio station KMGZ-FM in nearby Lawton, Okla., and has become a hit among soldiers overseas.
"I've seen an incredible outpouring from the community and from the
church," said the Rev. Jennifer Long, the family's pastor, who in 2003
lost a family member in a grenade attack in Iraq. "It's opened a lot of
hearts to let out some things that people have been holding in."
Cindy wrote "When Are You Coming Home?" after learning that
22-year-old Shaun would not be home for Christmas. She and Heather
performed the song to give Shaun as a Christmas gift.
"When I had told (Heather) that he wasn't going to be home for
Christmas, she reacted so sadly," Cindy said. "When I was writing the
words, I thought it just really made sense that … it should be written
from her point of view."
The video was recorded during a church service. With her mother
playing piano off-camera, Heather stands in front of the pulpit and
earnestly sings the lyrics, including a chorus of:
"When are you coming home, Shaun?
"When are you coming home?
"We lit up the house like we always do
"But it doesn't seem right because we can't hug you.
"In my prayers I ask God to keep you safe.
"And I'm trying to be really brave.
"Tell me that the fighting's through.
"I really miss you.
"It makes me cry every time I hear it," said Judy Runnels, who saw
the original performance. "I think the fact that a little girl is
singing that about her brother is very touching."
The Martins' church since has posted other videos of Heather singing
in church. Her version of "God Bless America" has been viewed more than
19,000 times. Members say posting such videos is a way to connect with
troops far from home.
"Of the key things that I think resonates with soldiers is that it
brings a little home to them," said Cache Mayor Nolan Watson, who
attends Cache First United Methodist. "It's very personal. It reaches
out and touches you."
Heather Martin watches the video of her song "When Are You Coming Home" on YouTube. A UMNS photo by John Gordon.
Cindy's song has been interpreted by some critics as an anti-war
anthem, but friend Cindy Williams, who shot the video and posted it on
YouTube, said it's not meant to make a political statement. "It's simply
about a family that is missing a brother," Williams says.
Cindy echoes that sentiment. "Irregardless of how you feel about the
war, we've got people over there serving our country and we should just
support them as human beings," she said. "And that's what I'm trying to
do for Shaun and other people like him."
Since making YouTube's featured list, Heather and her mother have
received an outpouring of cards and letters. Their video, meanwhile, has
drawn almost 6,000 comments on the Web site ranging from supportive to
The mother-and-daughter occasionally are asked to perform their song
at churches, restaurants and nursing homes. "Sometimes I still get
emotional," Cindy said. "Sometimes I'll watch her when she's singing it
and it'll get to me again."
Spc. Shaun Martin, who was deployed last June with his
counter-intelligence unit near Baghdad, is due to return home sometime
in 2007. Cindy says he has shared the song with other soldiers, who are
able to access YouTube.
"I feel like we're singing it to our son," she says. "And it feels like it almost brings him home for a little while."
*Simmons is a freelance producer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Fran Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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