TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Music has always been a part of Sonya Bryson-Kirksy’s life. She loves to sing her favorite song: Billy Holiday’s Summertime.
“Music is like life to me," she tells FOX 13. "If there is a day that I don't sing or I don't hear music that moves me, it's a bad day."
If you’re a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, her name should sound familiar. Sonya sings the national anthem before every Lightning home game at Amalie Arena. She first stepped onto the ice in 2013 on Pearl Harbor Day, which is a fitting day for the retired Air Force Sergeant.
“That was the most amazing thing ever," Sonya recalled. "When I was in the Air Force I sang the anthem quite a bit, but in any military installation it's quiet protocol, so once you sing there’s usually someone who comes up and does the invocation and there’s no clapping. So you can imagine the very first time I did the anthem at Amalie. It was a shock to my soul.”
It’s no wonder the temporary gig turned into a permanent performance. Sonya is now a fixture at Lightning home games, but before she called Amalie her family, the Air Force was her home.
“I knew that I wanted to do something bigger than me. I knew I wanted to do something that makes a difference. I think that was the key for me,” Sonya said.
Sonya served her country for 20 years before retiring from the MacDill Air Force Base in 2015. Not long after, the singer-sergeant was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“I would wake up in the morning and every joint in my body would hurt. My whole body would be super weak,” she explained.
Sonya isn't shy about her symptoms. Rather than ask for sympathy, she uses her voice to inspire hope.
“If there is something I can do to help someone else; either talking about it, explaining my experiences or working to raise funds for a greater cause, I'm gonna do it. That's just me,” she said.
Who would've thought, the woman on the jumbotron with the Bolts-blue lipstick and matching nails, has a heart as big as her beautiful voice.
“Do you what you can while you can," Sonya said, "because you never know what tomorrow holds."