Before its first home varsity football game this past Friday night, the Riverbank Bruin coaches and players took time to recognize four families who represented relatives whose lives were lost in service to their nation or local community.
Although it was only officially approved the Monday before, the event went off as planned before the start of the varsity game Friday night.
Named the Fallen Hero, or “Blackout” game, it was the first home game of the 2018 season. RHS varsity football coach Kit Jory Jr. said he hopes the event will continue in the future.
It was held on the near sidelines of the field, with a presentation to each family of a memorial plaque recognizing the sacrifice, along with a lifetime pass to RHS home football games.
The purpose of the first ever event was described by the PA announcer.
“We rarely stop and take a moment to recognize the great price that has been paid and continues to be paid in order for us to participate in the simplest of freedoms such as the enjoyment of a Friday night high school football game. Tonight, our goal is to take time to do exactly that. Tonight, we stop and remember all that have sacrificed for the greater good of the country and communities we live in. We do that symbolically and directly by recognizing the families of four local heroes who gave all they had, while living a life that was dedicated to serving all of us.”
Four heroes were honored, including presentations to the families of Stanislaus County Deputy Dennis Wallace, Modesto Police Officer Michael Pershall, US Army Air Force Sgt. Norman Dahlin, and US Army SPC Joey Graves.
In the case of Specialist Graves, his platoon was on an escort mission outside of Baghdad on July 26, 2006. They were hit by what was described as a ‘well-orchestrated ambush’ outside of Baghdad.
Sergeant Dahlin was on a bombing mission over Berlin, Germany, during World War II, when his plane was hit by artillery fire. His captain gave the order to bail out of the plane, and six of the crew members managed to exit the aircraft and deploy chutes before the plane exploded in the air. The sergeant did not get out in time.
Police officer Pershall was killed in a collision with a DUI driver in August, 2017. He had started his career in the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department before coming to Modesto in 2012. He was an Explorer Advisor and served as a youth baseball coach.
Deputy Wallace had helped start the Hughson Youth Soccer League and had spent 26 years officiating high school and youth football games in his off time, including 15 years as a ‘white hat – a referee.
Following the presentations, the teams warmed up and the varsity game began.
The Bruins wore their all black uniforms in recognition of the event.