High School Football Teams Honor Service Members

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

Charlotte football coach Eddie Ostipow's 90-year-old grandfather can't make it to every game anymore, but for the first Victory for Veterans Benefit Game, he got a front row seat.

"It's great that he's here and we can honor him and the rest of the soldiers as well," Coach Ostipow said.

He comes from a long line of veterans, and Ostipow was among hundreds of soldiers' names on special camouflage jerseys worn by Charlotte and Eaton Rapids players Friday night.

"All the money raised by the sale and sponsorship of the jerseys will go to the VFW National Home," Ostipow said.

There were so many jerseys sold, players changed and wore a different name for the second half.

"It actually brings tears to my eyes," said Buzz Sodeman, a veteran honored on a jersey. "There should be a lot of pride out there wearing a jersey with somebody's name on it, and that gentleman could be dead. It's like the back of my shirt says, 'All gave some, some gave all.'"

It's those who did give all that were honored at Grand Ledge High School's Fallen Soldier game, a tradition in its third year.

"My son gave his life in November of 2004," said John Ellsworth. "He was a great kid, he was a football player, too. He played high school football, and so this is very special for them to recognize and understand that everybody sacrifices."

About 140 families of fallen soldiers from mid-Michigan attended the game, and 53 athletes wore the names on their jerseys.

"It's like the soldier is on their shoulder, and that soldier and them are playing this game together, and it brings them back on that field again for one more night," said Beth Boyd, organizer of the event and a teacher at Grand Ledge.

Both games had a message more important than winning or losing.

"You can make a difference, thanking a soldier, thanking a veteran is such a big thing," said Sgt. Jason Arrell, U.S. Army National Guard. "It may not seem like much at that time, but it is huge for that veteran."

After both games the veterans and families were invited onto the field where players presented them with their jerseys.

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