Photo: The Hillsboro High School/Middle School student body stands in recognition of current and past military members, standing on the gymnasium floor, during a Veterans Day ceremony in November at the high school.
By Jeff Gilliland – firstname.lastname@example.org
Most Highland County high schools will participate in a special Military Appreciation Night next week at the urging of the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Hillsboro will participate in a dual ceremony with East Clinton, Fairfield and McClain will host events of their own, and officials at Lynchburg-Clay and Whiteoak said they do not have home games next week.
The OHSAA sent a notice to all member schools recently asking them to take part in a statewide Military Appreciation Night on Friday, Jan. 20, honoring active and veteran United States Armed Forces members at athletic contests.
“Education-based athletics in the great state of Ohio are far more than winning and losing,” OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass said in a news release. “High school athletics encompass everyone. They are a school and community event. This entire school involvement helps develop student leaders on the courts and fields of play as well as in the classrooms and student groups that support their teams. This initiative is designed to emphasize these great student leaders in our schools and their support for our military.”
Potential ways for Ohio’s high schools to take part in this event include granting active and veteran military members free entry to athletic contests, honoring military members through public address announcements, designating military members as honorary captains, and dance and band performances that will honor the armed forces, the OHSAA said.
The program also extends to those schools that do not compete on Jan. 20.
“Many schools that do not compete on Jan. 20 have asked to hold special nights that same week,” Snodgrass said. “We have given our complete support and have promoted them as ‘tipping off’ our respect to the military.”
At Hillsboro, assistant athletic director Darci Miles said that since Hillsboro is playing at East Clinton on Jan. 20, the two schools will participate in a joint exercise.
Jim Marsh, a Hillsboro graduate and the athletic director at East Clinton, said the schools will honor a group of about 50 area veterans that recently took part in an Honor Flight to see the war memorials in Washington, D.C. The Jan. 20 ceremony will take place between the jayvee and varsity contests. Choir members will sing patriotic songs; politicians, school board members and school administrators have been asked to take part; and before the national anthem is played, all military personnel in attendance, retired and active, will be asked to stand and be recognized.
Another special recognition is planned, but Marsh said he wants to keep that secret until it happens.
In addition, all military members, retired and active, will be admitted to the games free of charge.
“It’s really an educational event,” Marsh said. “We’re always seeking educational opportunities with our student-athletes and we’ve always found that our military representatives have a great story to pass on to our student-athletes.”
Fairfield Athletic Director Denise Vilvens said the school is still working on its plans for Jan. 20 when the Lions host West Union. She said the students will be dressed in red, white and blue, and that the school is trying to find an honor guard to participate, but that she’s not sure what else will happen that night.
“This is the first time the OHSAA has done this and they wanted the school to set an example in the community for others to follow, and I think that’s a good thing to do,” Vilvens said. “I think it’s a good example for our kids to realize the importance of everything our military does for us.
“In light of some things that have went on recently at the professional and collegiate level, I think this is something we need to do show our respect for our veterans and all military members.”
The evening will also be Pee Wee Cheerleading Night at Fairfield.
McClain High School Principal Jason Potts said the school does not have any home games next week, so it will honor military personnel at a home game on Jan. 24. He said all military personnel will be asked to stand and be recognized before the tipoff, they will be admitted to the game free, and the student section will have some type of military-related theme for the game.
“It is important that we recognize their service and sacrifice and I think the OHSAA’s recommendation is a good thing for us and the entire community,” Potts said.
Whiteoak Superintendent Ted Downing said the Wildcats play at Fayetteville on Jan. 20. “But, we do honor and recognize our military for every game and not just this one night,” Downing said. He said that since last basketball season all military veterans and active personnel are admitted to Whiteoak games free of charge if they show identification.
Lynchburg-Clay Athletic Director Mark Faust said the school thought about doing something for the occasion, but the Mustangs play at Eastern Brown on Jan. 20 and have no home games that week.
The OHSAA said student sections can play a role in the event with creative themes that honor military members while also showing school pride. They can submit pictures and videos of their themes to be considered for the 2017 OHSAA Battle for the Golden Megaphone contest by posting content to Twitter and Instagram, using #GoldenMegaphone.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.