JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --
Airman 1st Class Ed Knoeckel, an Air Force Band of the West pianist, showcases the unit’s values of determination and compassion through his musical talents and impactful volunteer work with local foster children.
Performing on keyboard for the unit’s pop, jazz and concerts bands is Knoeckel’s primary duty, however, he continuously goes above and beyond as an Airman, said Chief Master Sgt. Martha Garcia, Band of the West Band Manager.
Recent examples of Knoeckel’s excellence both on and off duty include him earning his Doctorate in Composition and continually providing a safe place for local foster children awaiting a permanent home.
Knoeckel said the decision to earn a doctoral degree was made due to his passion for research, and his desire to grow as a composer and musician.
“Thankfully I got accepted to George Mason University’s Doctorate in Composition program and it was just an amazing experience,” Knoeckel said. “My education really helped me become a better communicator, and gave me some of the skills needed to revise and adjust some of our music to suit our variable mission needs.”
His adaptable composition skills are well-suited to the unique and diverse mission requirements of the Band of the West. In addition to supporting several different types of military ceremonies, the band performs at education outreaches, workshops and clinics in high schools, retirement villages, parades and various veteran events.
“I really love our broad mission here,” Knoeckel said. “We reach a broad range of audiences in the community including school children, veterans and retirees. I consider myself a jack of all trades, and it’s really inspiring and challenging to meet the needs of our diverse mission.”
Mirroring the Band of the West’s commitment to serving a wide-range of community members, Knoeckel volunteers in the community in a multitude of different ways.
“My wife and I started talking about what we could do to help in the community and we decided to become certified through a local foster organization,” Knoeckel said. “While we aren’t quite in a place to give full-time foster care, we try to help foster families out by providing the caregivers with home respite care.”
Home respite care involves taking foster children in for a weekend or just for a day or two to give the caregivers an opportunity for a break.
“Whenever foster caregivers need a date night or just time to relax, they contact us and we’ll either connect them to other providers or the kids can stay at our house,” Knoeckel said. “We try to give them an opportunity just to breathe and rebalance when needed.”
In addition to providing home respite care, Knoeckel also volunteers at local hospitals to provide companionship for kids without families that can be present.
“Whenever there's a foster kid admitted to the hospital they call out for sitters so someone can be there for them,” Knoeckel said. “A lot of these kids come out of abusive homes or they’re sick or malnourished and they just need someone to be there to hold them and sing to them. I just try to be a light for them as much as I can, it really touches your heart. Some of these kids have seen so much in their short lives.”
“We are incredibly proud of Knoeckel’s selfless contributions to the mission and our people,” Garcia said. “As an unsung hero, he provides so much to our mission and our community.”