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Hitting the right notes: Singing boom operator inspires others

An Airman sings

Airman 1st Class Julian Awari, 349th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, sings the national anthem at a Kansas City Chiefs game Nov. 6, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. Awari has been singing since he was 6 years old, and has found ways to blend his hobby with his Air Force career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Thornbury)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan.— Growing up in a poverty-stricken, single-parent family, he used singing as a kind of therapy.

Airman 1st Class Julian Awari, 349th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, was only 6 when he first realized he had a talent for singing, and it was a hobby he would stick with throughout his life.

“I like to creatively express myself through music, so I’ve done a lot of writing and recording at different studios, and that started in elementary school,” said Julian. “The first studio was in a laundry room, and it progressively got more professional through the years.”

In 2012, Julian was on season five of “Sunday Best,” a gospel music competition that airs on BET. He was chosen to be one of 20 on the show after competing against thousands from across the nation.

Julian said he sings gospel music that contains relevant, inspirational messages and has popular pop and R&B sounds. His main focus is to help others through his music.

“I believe in what I sing about,” Julian said. “I love God, I love people and I love music. I feel that in doing this, I can put it all together and put it out as a great product. I’ve had a hard life, and I still go through challenges. I feel like what I’ve been through can really help others, and that’s what I feel my calling is. Music is a very great communicator of hearts and emotions.”

Julian credits his brother, Nico Awari, with “discovering” him when he was young, and said he’s remained one of his biggest supporters.

“Julian’s singing career helped shape him as a person,” said Nico. “He has always known what he was called for and wanted to do. Since he was a child, he's devoted his time and energy to his craft. Throughout my life, I’ve never met anyone as focused and dedicated to becoming something in the world of music and arts.”

In 2013, he released his first album, and his next one is scheduled to come out in spring of next year.

“My first album was called ‘Identity’ because it was really a search of self and reflecting on my relationship with God as I got to know him and to know myself better,” said Julian. “The new CD is called ‘Beneath the Surface.’ It’s a very vulnerable album, and I hesitated writing and recording some things because I felt like it was so personal, but what I realized was that some of those things are what people need to hear the most.”

Julian continued his singing career after joining the Air Force two years ago. In his current job, he performs in-flight refueling to receiver aircraft from KC-135 Stratotankers. In some ways, he’s managed to link those two parts of his life. He often receives requests to sing the national anthem for events and ceremonies on base, and he has even represented the Air Force at large events in the community.

“I’ve been singing a lot of national anthems, and my recent major accomplishments would be singing for the Chiefs versus Jaguars game on Veterans Day last year and the Royals versus Tigers game this year for Memorial Day,” he said. “I also sang at a boxing match between the fire department and police department here in Wichita a few weeks ago, which was incredible.”

Singing the Star Spangled Banner means more to Julian than simply singing a song, and he tries to make his audiences feel the same.

“You’re creating a moment,” he said. “It’s kind of like a roller-coaster. When you get on a roller-coaster, you go through such a thrill that only lasts but for a moment, but it’s something that you remember for a lifetime. When I have the opportunity to sing the national anthem, I don’t just sing it so it sounds nice, I really try to sing it from a place of strength, pride and intimacy.

“When people hear me sing, I want them to have that moment, and when they think back to that moment where they stood there with their hand over their heart, saluted or stood at attention, I want them to just reflect on the foundation of the nation and the spirit of freedom.”

Julian has no plans to stop writing, singing and inspiring others, and he does so both in and out of uniform.