Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Friday Night Lights: Rockets/Tigers Salute

Rockets (3-0) vs. Caldwell County (2-1)
Rocket Stadium | Friday | 7 p.m.

This year’s rivalry game on the gridiron against Caldwell County will take second-stage next week when the Rockets and Crittenden County celebrate the community’s heroes. The Tigers will also join in the celebration.

The first Rocket/Tiger Salute will pay homage to veterans, active military and first-responders at Friday's football game at Rocket Stadium. Honorees will enter the gates for free and will be honored at halftime. They are also invited to take part in a hospitality room and tents beginning at 5:30 p.m. prior to the kickoff at 7 p.m.

It’s no coincidence that the celebration of military personnel and first-responder falls on the 14th anniversary of 9/11.

“Every day, they selflessly give of themselves to better our community, our nation and our world,” said Rockets Coach Al Starnes. “We want to take an opportunity to give back to them, and let them know we appreciate all that they do.”

Fatalities in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, as well as aboard United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., included 423 firemen, law enforcement officers, EMTs and paramedics as well as 55 members of the military. To date, 6,828 military personnel have been killed in the War on Terror following the attacks.

No local military personnel were killed, but Crittenden County High School graduates Chase Matthews and Jonathan McMackin were injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007 as members of the Kentucky Army National Guard. Matthews lost both legs and functionality in one arm.

Starnes said Superintendent of Schools Vince Clark prompted the idea of the school district saluting the military and first-responders on Friday. Since that time, Starnes, assistant coach Jeremy Wheeler and middle and high school instruction coach Tiffany Blazina have worked to put the salute together.

Wheeler and fellow assistant Jared Brown are both ex-Marines, and while Starnes was not in the military, recognizing the sacrifices of those in the armed services is near to his heart. His father was in the U.S. Air Force for 30 years, and many of his players from his 25 years in Crittenden County have gone on to serve in the military.

The Rockets will be wearing camouflage jersies supplied by the Kentucky Army National Guard. Starnes said Caldwell County is also looking for their own camo uniforms.

Veterans, active military and first-responders attending the game Friday are asked to enter the East Gate at Rocket Stadium to register for recognition during halftime ceremonies. They will also receive an American flag and are invited to visit the hospitality tents.

In addition to recognition of military and first-responders, Crittenden County schools are holding a contest to collect care items for deployed military personnel distributed through the Hugs Project of Western Kentucky. The goal is to bring in items, including snacks, personal care items, and games for deployed soldiers. The classrooms collecting the most donations at each school will earn free admission to the Rocket/Tiger Salute game, as well as recognition at the game that evening.

There are tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed around the world, including more than 63,000 in Germany and other European countries, 49,000 in Japan, almost 18,000 in the Middle East and Africa and more than 10,000 in hot spots like Afghanistan and Iraq and another 29,000 in South Korea.

Community partners also are encouraged to join the school district in an effort to recognize the military and first-responders and collect care items for deployed troops. Any business who would like to set up collection boxes and/or post messages on their billboards are encouraged to do so. Those businesses will also be recognized during the game.

Further information can be obtained by calling Blazina at (270) 969-0773 or emailing

Items for deployed troops:
Antiperspirants, bath soap, beef jerky, books, breakfast foods (Pop-Tarts, cereal bars, single-serve boxes of cereal), snacks, bug repellant (non-aerosol), candy (hard in summer only), canned dips, chips in cans (travel size), cookies, flavored crackers (travel size), single-drink mix (Crystal Light, Kool-Aid, etc.), dry coffee creamer, dry skin lotion, eye drops, fly strips and glue traps, body powders, games (small travel sizes), granola bars, power bars, gum, hot chocolate, instant oatmeal (single-serve), tissues (travel size), nuts and sunflower seeds, Q-tips, ramen noodles, shampoo (12 oz. or smaller), soup mixes (single-serve), stationery, sugar substitutes, sunscreen, teas and coffees (single-serve), throat lozenges, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hand and feet warmers, warm wool hats, zipper-lock style baggies (all sizes), unscented wet wipes (travel size).