In a game honoring our Armed Forces, the Henry Ford II High School women’s soccer team played in the first annual, “Honoring Our Fallen Heroes,” soccer game.
Played on May 19th, the team presented an opportunity to help families, through Military Families United, who have lost a loved one in combat.
The big motivation for the community is knowing how many close friends have been lost. Holding this even was the best way to say, “Thank You” for their courageous efforts in keeping our nation safe.
The team, coached by Teri Steinwascher, had embraced the opportunity in hopes that her student athletes would be able to obtain a lifelong learning experience.
This special occasion has helped shape the girls into young adults that we will all be so proud of in the future. The day chosen for the game was significant in its own being: it was a day to be remembered for all who have served in our Armed Forces. The opponent was also of significance: playing Grosse Pointe North was the perfect fit, considering HFII’s sophomore Hannah Alston has an older sister (Melissa – HFII ’07) who is currently active duty in the Army and her older brother, (Chris – HFII ’99) coaches GPN.
Even though HFII won both games, with varsity’s game 1-0, and a goal by senior Lauren Vanderhoff and the shutout recorded by senior goalkeeper, Deanna Zolnosky and sophomore goalkeeper Meghan Bogg; the real battle was keeping the tears in.
GPN’s Francesca Ciaramitaro played for her cousin, LCpl Dominic J. Ciaramitaro whom we lost on 4-23-11. Ciaramitaro proudly served in Afghanistan. HFII’s Emily Iloff played in honor of SSgt Raymond J. Plouhar who we lost on 6-26-06 during the war in Iraq. Plouhar was a comrade and dear friend of Emily’s father, Jason Iloff.
The event would not have been possible without a huge Thank You to Jason Iloff. Jason was a Technical Sergeant (TSgt) for Aerial Transportation. Jason is now retired from service but served a combined 20 years in the Air Force Reserve and Army National Guard.
The day was action-packed and full of patriotic events.
We wanted the day to be a triple header, but GPN does not have a freshman team. Since we didn’t have a game for our freshman team, we asked the freshman team to be the “Face” of HFII. They all were assigned multiple families that would be visiting and were the “meet & greet” group to make our military families feel welcome.
“I could not have asked for a better group of girls to have done this, every single one of the freshman players made me so proud.” Along with the girls was Donna Dease (daughter Morgan – Bemis Jr. High & Colonel Dease from TACOM) who was a wonderful help in the most beautiful way to allow us to honor with pride. Both the junior varsity and the varsity soccer players from both schools; HFII & GPN, and the referees wore camouflage jerseys.
One player from each team wore the name of a Fallen Hero on their back across the name plate. All of our Fallen Heroes resided in the Greater Metro Detroit area (Oakland, Macomb & Genesse Counties) and 85% the families were present to receive the honored jersey at the end of the game.
A local VFW provided a color guard and live singing of the National Anthem by HFII’s own Lindsey Dodson at the beginning of each game. Cameron Love (HFII) read the “Fallen Hero” poem as the players took a knee in silence as we remembered those who were so special and dear to the families in the stands.
Special guests included, Command Sergeant Major David Marshall (MIARNG Recruiting & Retention Battalion), Chief Master Sergeant Rex Neff (76th Aerial Port Squadron Chief), Chief Master Sergeant John Amato (Retired Aerial Port Squadron Operations Chief), Wendy Day (Survivor Outreach Services Support Coordinator, SE Michigan), Robert and Shannon Rynca (1-125 INF and Yellow Ribbon Coordinator), and Colonel Charles Dease (Military Deputy TACOM TARDEC). All of which were present for the coin toss.
After each of the games were over the players spent some time with the family members for which they played in honor of. Taking a moment to listen and get to know each other. The family of our Fallen Heroes showed their appreciation in many ways. Some gave the girls their son’s dog tags, others gave pictures, and many received flowers from the families whose hearts were touched by the entire day. The common response from our military families was that it was nice to know that our loved ones are not being remembered as just a name, yet the person whom they are. Many tears were shed by both players and families of our Fallen Heroes; tears of sadness, tears of appreciation, and hugs of comfort.
A special thank you to Jason Iloff and so many people who helped shaped the lives of so many young people in our community. Without you we could not have given these student athletes this opportunity.