Corner Canyon softball remembers fallen heroesApr 26, 2021 11:32AM ● By Catherine Garrett
The Corner Canyon High softball team honored fallen heroes at their April 12 game. (Photos courtesy Gaile Dupree)
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
“It was super inspiring to play for someone that is super important,” is how Corner Canyon High softball junior Amber Brocoff described her experience in playing for Sgt. Quincy Andrews as part of CCHS’s annual tradition of honoring fallen soldiers during a game. This year, the Chargers joined with 21 other families of fallen soldiers through Operation Hero in its game with Lehi April 12.
Brocoff was able to give Andrews’ young son Deain a souvenir home run ball that she hit in the first inning during the tribute game.
“I felt super pumped going into the game,” she said. “Being able to represent someone who passed away was just a very special moment and it meant a lot to me.”
The “Operation Hero” organization set up a smaller version of its combat boot memorial to honor the families of those participating in this event. The nonprofit was formed five years ago by Antoinette Stapley in honor of her husband Tracy who died July 3, 2013 in Qatar at age 44 after 26 years of military service.
The Chargers’ first-year coach Todd Thompson said his team has thoroughly enjoyed being part of this program and even discussed plans of the CCHS annual military game with the Lehi coach who expressed his interest in making this an annual event between the two teams. “It was so great for all of us to realize that you’re part of something much bigger than you,” Thompson said. “It even brought out a soft side in some grown men at the game, including our PA announcer whose voice cracked with emotion during the tribute.”
Lauren Dupree, who has been honoring the family of Pvt. Cody Gene Hendrikson the past three seasons, said it has meant so much to her to play for “her soldier.”
“It’s been a super great and meaningful experience getting to know who he was,” she said. “The most rewarding part of the program is seeing the positive impact on my teammates and the families we represent.”
Kathryn Miner, who plays for Sgt. Jesse Allen Blamires, said, “This makes softball a ton more meaningful. It’s so cool to see everyone coming together to support the cause.”
Selma Kohler has been connected with the family of Pvt. Philip M. Christensen, particularly his mother Jan, for the past four years and their relationship has deep meaning to the senior.
“I am so honored to play for Philip,” she said. “Playing in his honor inspires me to play my hardest. It really does mean a lot to me that I get to do something for someone else even if it’s not the biggest thing in the world. It makes them happy and it makes me happy. I am a better person for having this experience.”
Other fallen soldiers honored by CCHS players were Spc. David Gannon (represented by Samantha Opheikens), Sgt. Sheldon Loveless (Brenley Clark), Cpl. David Griggs (Jane Manning), Sgt. Matthew Simmons (Chelsie Sundquist), Lt. Joshua Ryan Wall (Amay Kano), Spc. Jordan Matthew Byrd (Isabella Bassani), Pvt. Matthew G. Nish (Brittney Sturdevant), Spc. Daniel G. Dolan (Emma Rasmussen), Spc. Michael Anderson Hatfield (Gwen Curry), Sgt. Aaron Kramer (Jaci Alvey), Petty Officer 2nd Class John Adrian (Kaleigh Gillespie), Hospitalman 2nd Class Daniella Juliana Casey (Linda Vogel), 1st Sgt. Tracy Stapley (Audrey Smith), Staff Sgt. Kurt Jensen (Kathryn Fowler), 2nd Lt. John Alley (Savannah Healy), Sgt. 1st Class Ben Miller (Midori Kano), Sgt. Brandon Allen Parr (Lauren Beck) and Staff Sgt. Jared Farr (Taylor Dotson).
From the day Stapley answered the door five years ago to two uniformed officers informing her of her husband Tracy’s death, she has navigated a path that was foreign to her. Much of what “Operation Hero” aims to accomplish is to help other military families understand the resources that are available to them as they also move forward in their own uncharted territory.
The organization has a three-fold purpose.
With “Giving Back,” funds are raised through the various events to help families. In the past five years, more than $11,000 has been given to surviving families and other similar organizations.
In “Educating,” Stapley has made efforts to assist 3,000 families with “preparing for the unexpected.” “We want service members and families to know more about what I feel I should have known and what to pay attention to as a spouse,” Stapley said. “We also want to help them make sure their documents are updated before service members are deployed.”
With “Honoring,” Stapley aims to make sure these service members are remembered by name and individual tributes. “We honor all of them. We don’t spotlight just my husband; his boot is not front and center,” she said. “We want people to know and remember the amazing stories and take time to remember them.”
The organization includes a traveling memorial that honors more than 300 fallen Utah service members who have passed away in uniform since 9/11 with a decorated boot.
As the organization is completely volunteer based, help is needed in various ways for the upcoming boot memorial. Stapley said they are always looking for combat boot donations, uniforms to display, sponsors and any donations for online and in-person silent auctions and opportunity drawings. Volunteers are also being sought for set up and take down as well as while the display is up for the viewing public.
“Each of these service members is a hero,” Stapley said. “It doesn’t matter how they died. If they died in uniform they have a boot.”
From May 28-31, the “Operation Hero” boot memorial will be showcased at Mountain View Village, located at 13400 S. 4500 West in Riverton.