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The City Journals

CCHS softball players, military families bond during special game

Apr 30, 2022 10:41AM ● By Catherine Garrett

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

For Corner Canyon High softball coach Todd Thompson, the team’s annual tradition of hosting a military honor game is personal. His friend, Sgt. First Class Rocky Guerrera was killed in action in Afghanistan 15 years ago and continuing to remember his friend is something he’s tried to do ever since.

“We get to wear special uniforms with the name of our fallen soldier on the back which recognizes who we are playing for,” Thompson said. “We typically don’t learn about our military that are serving until it’s hard news. Unfortunately, it’s become personal for me.”

Each year, the Chargers players connect with their soldier’s family and those relationships have provided deep meaning for seniors Sammie Opheikens and Kat Miner.

“Playing for Spc. David Gannon has meant a lot to me,” Opheikens said. “It’s made it more important and for something more than just me playing high school softball. David’s family has been amazing. They have taught me so much about their son and have changed my life for the better. I couldn’t be more grateful to have met them and played for their son.”

“It’s been super cool to play for Sgt. Jesse A. Blamires the past three years and to be able to talk to his family and kids,” Miner said. “It has taught me that these families sacrifice so much. This means a lot to me because we get to forget about ourselves for a minute and honor those who have sacrificed so much for our country.”

The Operation Hero organization displayed a smaller version of its combat boot memorial to honor the families of those participating this year. The nonprofit was formed six years ago by Antoinette Stapley in honor of her husband Tracy who died July 3, 2013 in Qatar at the age of 44 after 26 years of military service.

Patriot Guard riders were also on hand along with Draper City Councilmember Tasha Lowery while all involved enjoyed a barbecue to establish further bonds and celebrate in the military members’ service and ultimate sacrifice.

CCHS softball team mom and manager Robin Bazzani, who organized this year’s event, said, “The families are always so kind and really enjoy watching the girls represent their soldiers. Many of the families came up to me during the game and stated how much they enjoy this event every year.”

In this year’s game Salem Hills won 8-1.

“The game is the smallest part of this,” Thompson said. “We get to learn some of what these families have done for us and gone through for us and show them that people care for what their family has done. They become a second family to us. It’s an amazing atmosphere and truly heartwarming.”

Other fallen soldiers honored by CCHS players were PVT Cody Gene Hendricksson (represented by Brooklyn Miller), PVT Philip M. Christensen (Mikaela Gale), SGT Sheldon Loveless (Brenley Clark), SGT Brandon Allen (Jane Manning), SGT Matthew Simmons (Chelsie Sundquist), LT Joshua Ryan Wall (Amaya Kano), SGT Quincy Andrews Fenn (McKenna Gibbons), Pfc. Jordan Matthew Byrd (Isabella Bassani), PVT Matthew G Nish (Hannah Brown), SPC Daniel G Dolan (Emma Rasmussen), SPC Michael Anderson Hatfield (Gwen Curry), SGT Aaron Kramer (Jaci Alvey), PO2 John Adrian (Cece Faucette), HM2 Daniella Juliana Casey (Ashley McDonald), 1SG Tracy Stapley (Audrey Smith), SSG Kort Jensen (Abbie MacWilliam), 2Lt John Alley (Samantha Healey), SFC Ben Miller (Midori Kano) and SSG Jared Farr (Taylor Dotson).

Salem Hills players are playing for Major Brent Taylor, SSGT Ben Devereaux, SPC Kyle Mecham, SSGT Jeffrey Rollins, SSGT Alex Mitchell, SSG Lincoln Olmstead, SFC Tyler Hill, CW3 Matt Wagstaff, SPC Cody Towse, SSG Landon Henscheid, LCPL Quinn Keith, LCPL Dion Stephenson, SGT Jacob Lannigan, Major Matthew Wharton, LCPL Nigel Olsen, SSGT Christian “Fox” Larsen and SPC Kasey Beatty.

“Playing in this game has made me appreciate our military and all they give up for our country and the risks they take. We are blessed to have them,” Opheikens said. “Their families are wonderful people who go through a lot of hard times and are still positive and show compassion to everyone.”

Miner said, “I’m so thankful for the new perspective this program has given me and the opportunity to play for something bigger than myself these past three years.”