Several years ago, when Dana Minard was a football coach in Fresno, Calif., he took his players to a veterans hospital. The visit was supposed to last 60 minutes.
The players left eight hours later.
“One guy, a double amputee, took us to his room, showed us his football gear,” Minard recalls. “He’s crying, my guys are crying. We were a mess.”
Minard and fellow Sequim High coaches aim to honor those who have served in the U.S. military as they don camouflage jerseys Friday evening when the Wolves take on Bremerton High School in the Olympic League opener.
Minard, an assistant with the Wolves, says this is the fifth time he’s done a tribute like this, after four events while he was coaching in Fresno.
The difference is, “No one’s done the name on the jersey and given it away,” he says.
Players and coaches offered friends, family and others in Sequim a chance to honor loved ones with a jersey. For about $70, participants could have a jersey embroidered on the back with the name of a veteran (The $70 fee covered cost of the jersey and was not a fundraiser, Minard says.)
On Friday evening, players will wear those jerseys and information about those veterans will be read over the loudspeaker.
Following the game, players present the jerseys to the veterans, family or friends who purchased the jersey.
Minard says he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to pull off the project.
“I didn’t think we were going to sell enough,” he says.
But 49 purchase orders came in, so some of Sequim’s 32 varsity players are going to switch uniforms at halftime to make sure each jersey is used.
The honors include the coaches, who will don camouflage shirts alongside the players.
Four of those coaches — Jerry Moat, Chris Young, Rex Lott and Mike McFarlen — are veterans themselves.
Lott, also an assistant coach, says he notices a disconnect in Sequim between youths and retirees. However, at a recent Rotary meeting, Lott says, many attendees of retirement age became quite interested when he told them about the upcoming veteran tribute.
“This is teaching leadership,” Lott says. “We want them to respect each other … (and) to create a better culture.”
Minard says he’d love to see this kind of tribute go statewide, even nationwide.
“It’s (about) brotherhood and it’s honor,” Minard says.