FORT KNOX, Ky. –
For Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Woodberry, music has always been a part of his life.
His talent was seen by the nation March 2 when he appeared as a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice” under his stage name, Sam Wilco, and was selected to move onto the next round as part of Nick Jonas’ team.
Singing since as long as he can remember, Woodberry, a U.S. Army Recruiting and Retention College instructor, has worked his way through the U.S. Army with some twists and turns, just as in his music career.
The oldest of seven siblings, all of his younger brothers and sisters sing as well as his parents and extended family members. Music and military service both run in his family, with all three of Woodberry’s brothers also serving.
Woodberry joined the Army in September 1998 as a way to pay for college. He wanted to purse a degree in art and once his recruiter told him that he could get $40,000 toward his education goals, he enlisted as an administrative specialist. After his first reenlistment, he switched his job to a computer analyst. He said he “really enjoyed the job and the challenges with fixing computers.”
While serving in that position, he was selected for a three-year tour as an Army recruiter. Discovering that he loved helping people more than working with machines, he chose to finish his career as a permanent recruiter with U.S. Army Recruiting Command. He has been teaching other recruiters his craft at the RRC for the last three years and will retire from the Army in February 2021.
His desire to sing led to participating in different competitions in the Army. In 1999 when he was new to the Army, he competed and won best male vocalist for an Army-wide talent competition held by the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, or BOSS, program. In 2006 Woodberry participated in the “Military Idol” and took second place in Fort Lewis, Washington. After encouragement from his wife, family and friends, he decided to audition for “The Voice” and was selected for the 2020 season.
“Being in the Army has really enhanced my love for music. I don’t think I would love music as much as I do today if I hadn’t joined the Army,” Woodberry said. “With all of the encouragement of my fellow Soldiers, my drill sergeants and my superiors, the opportunities that were given through BOSS, it’s been a great time in the Army to do music.”
The Army even had an impact on his stage name, Sam Wilco. He chose the name because of an Army acronym WILCO. It is short for “will comply.” Woodberry said he feels like God is giving him the gift to sing and is calling him to use it for something greater.
“So if He’s calling me,” he said, “my name is my answer, ‘Samuel Will Comply.’”
Woodberry said the Army has given him the time to pursue his dreams, and his fellow Soldiers have always been supportive of him. “From people encouraging me to fellow Soldiers that help record music with me, they play instruments, they do videography for me... They’re really for you becoming the best that you can be, and I really love that.”
He said his family really keeps him motivated to serve.
“Family is one of the most important things for me,” Woodberry said, and “one of the things I love the most about the Army is that it has helped me to provide for my family in a way that has been secure and kept us together. I could never be more thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given.”