STEVE HANLON: Hats off to all the heroes out there

2011-08-27T22:00:00Z 2012-08-30T23:58:11Z STEVE HANLON: Hats off to all the heroes out thereBy Steve Hanlon Prep Beat
August 27, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

HAMMOND | Some say Marilyn Manson. Others say Pat Robertson. And a few more might suggest Snoop Dog.

If you asked 100 people who their hero was you might get 99 different answers.

On Saturday night in Hessville, a large crowd of almost-crazed football fans got to see first-hand what a hero was. Or heroes, as was the case at "The Saturday Night Salute" during the Lowell-Morton football game.

It brought tears to these dry eyes. And mine were not the only ones.

At least 30 U.S. military veterans were on Zlotnik Field before the game for the national anthem, the coin flip and other ways these heroes were honored. Many more were in the bleachers.

The greatest thing was Lowell's and Morton's captains shaking hands with the vets and telling them thank you, while both teams applauded from each goal line.

"I think back to the Vietnam era and the way the vets were treated," said Hammond's Carl Ploense, a Navy vet who just returned from Iraq. "It's nice to see people respect the uniform again."

"To respect the soldier again," added Highland's Aaron Santonelli, an active duty member of the Army who has spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My tear came for the nearly half of the soldiers introduced who served in Vietnam. In that unbathed, unshaven political time, American soldiers were called all sorts of things here at home. But thankfully America got a haircut and started to understand the heart of our heroes.

And it was beating loud and proud on Saturday night.

"It's great that these kids understand," said Munster's James Gravugle of the U.S. Army. "This means a lot to me. It means a lot to all of these guys."

To me a hero is someone who lays down his life for his brother. Or goes all in on every hand for his neighbors, country, family and friends.

The military is blue collar. It was great that two of the region's most blue-collar football programs raised their collective hand and saluted these great men and women who told the world there were others more important than themselves.

Lowell native Augy Vicari is one such person. The Lowell native recently lost is life in Afghanistan. His cousin, Seth Anderson, is a sophomore quarterback for Lowell. He received a check for $500 from Morton coach Roy Richards to give to Vicari's family.

The concession stand sold an "Augy dog." The Govs had camouflage on the white stripe of their pants. A great way to bring Americana - high school football - and honor together.

"I knew Augy very well," Anderson said. "He watched me when I was little. I always ended up with a bloody nose from messy around. He meant the world to me."

Anderson said he has one goal for the next three years of his career with the Red Devils. It is something we should all watch for in the coming quarters.

"He gave his life for me, serving his country," Anderson said. "I want to play for him. Every game he will be in my heart and mind."

Some say Barack Obama. Others say George Bush. And some say any idiot on the television screen. But I'll agree with what Jim Anderson, Seth's father, said. With a 21-gun salute.

"My definition of a hero is Augy Vicari," Jim said.

Thank you Morton and Lowell and all of those involved for making this night happen.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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