A tweet to a crooner pays off
When Carole Henderson's son decided to become a Green Beret, she did what any devoted mother would do.
She started to tweet.
How else could she make sure she fulfilled one of his dreams - to see crooner Tony Bennett in concert?
Jacob Powers, 21, of Alexandria decided when he was in kindergarten that he wanted to be a soldier when he grew up.
He graduated from New Testament Christian School in Alexandria in 2009 and took a slight detour. He earned an associate degree in psychology.
But the picture of the soldier he drew when he was 5 never left his head. A few months ago, he went to an Army recruiter and told them that he wanted to be a Green Beret.
"He has very large dreams and desires and ambitions," said his proud mother. "He wants to make a difference, a big difference."
"I just felt like anything less is not good enough," Powers said of his military path.
He took the tests, was sworn in and on January 8 mother and son will have to say goodbye when Powers leaves for basic training.
For a mother who beams with pride when she talks about her son's character and accomplishments, and for a son who considers his mom "a best friend," the parting will be not-so-sweet sorrow. Henderson was determined to do something extra special before he left.
"I wanted to do something that would give him some really cool memories to take with him to the Army for the tough times," she said.
So she gave him what any 21-year-old Green Beret would want.
A CONCERTED EFFORT
A couple years ago, Powers was cruising through his iTunes, experimenting with different genres of music, when he discovered Bennett. He was impressed.
"He spends a lot of time creating his music," Powers said. "You can tell there are a lot of real-world experiences there. It just sounds like art."
When Henderson recently asked her son what he wanted for Christmas and his birthday, which is January 6, he mentioned nonchalantly that someday he would like to see a Tony Bennett concert.
Now she had the perfect way to give back to her son some of the joy he had always brought to her. She found out that Bennett was performing a concert November 19 in New York City. All she had to do was find a way to get him there.
Not a fan of social media, Henderson stepped outside her comfort zone and set up a Twitter account. She sent the following tweet to Good Morning America, Oprah, Katie Couric and Tony Bennett: "Please help! My 21-yr-old son is joining the Army Jan 8 and wants to see Tony Bennett in New York. Can you help me in any way?"
Certain no one was going to read her tweet, Henderson went ahead and bought her son concert and airplane tickets.
She was shocked when about two weeks later she got a tweet back from Couric's staff. An e-mail ensued that stated, "We are having Tony Bennett on the show and we would like to surprise your son."
Henderson explained that she had already made arrangements. Instead, the show offered to extend Powers' stay in New York for one more night. They also flew her out a day after his arrival to surprise him.
"I started crying and got goose bumps," she said of their offer. "I was speechless."
EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
Days later, Powers not only was at a Tony Bennett concert - he had front row seats. And it was even better than he imagined.
"To actually see him in person was a little shocking," he said. "Him being 86 doesn't really show. He was up there dancing and whatnot. He had so much life in him. It was a great experience!"
It got even better.
That Monday, Henderson and her son were audience members during the taping of Katie, on which Bennett was a guest. After Couric interviewed him, she said, "Your music has had such an impact on so many people's lives. They are here in the audience today."
At that point, Henderson's Twitter plea was displayed and Couric asked Powers to come up on stage.
"I got to shake Tony Bennett's hand," Powers marveled. "All I wanted to do was see Tony Bennett in concert. My mom, as great as she is, bumps it up and I get to actually meet him."
Once onstage, Couric asked Powers a few questions. Then she asked Bennett if he had any words of wisdom for this young man who was fearlessly setting off to defend his country. His advice was to cherish the friendships, the camaraderie, and the lifelong relationships that he would develop as a member of the military.
On that note, Bennett took center stage and sang for the audience.
"What a sendoff, huh?" Henderson questioned. "I just can't get over how happy I am that I could make all this happen for him. He's such an incredible young man."