Lee University and the school's baseball program celebrated what observers felt was the biggest and best ever Military Appreciation Day observance Saturday.More than 60 veterans attended the program …
Lee University and the school's baseball program celebrated what observers felt was the biggest and best ever Military Appreciation Day observance Saturday.
More than 60 veterans attended the program and the announcement of this year's Bobby Taylor Memorial Scholarship, before the start of the baseball doubleheader between the Lee Flames and Memphis' Christian Brothers University.
Lee Baseball coach Mark Brew was delighted with the turnout, the Memphis school's participation, and the wonderful weather – which hadn't cooperated in recent years.
The veterans appeared to appreciate the opportunity to meet the young athletes from both collegiate teams, and the recognition and acknowledgement of those in attendance
The winner of this year's Bobby Taylor Scholarship was Lee University senior Tavis Clonch. The scholarship was presented by Taylor's son and Bank of Cleveland President and CEO Scott Taylor. Also representing the bank was Christy Goza.
Clonch was accompanied by his girlfriend, Lee University junior Rebecca Lane.
The two Lee students, who are both majoring in health/sciences, will be traveling to Nepal this summer on a mission trip. Clonch plans to be a physician's assistant and a medical missionary.
Before entering Lee University, Clonch spent time in the U.S. Army, having been stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Polk, La.
"This is a tremendous honor," said Clonch after receving the second Bobby Taylor scholarship.
The scholarship was included in the program last year, and named for Taylor, a World War II veteran who flew in bomber missions over Europe.
This year's guest speaker was Bradley County Commissioner Milan Blake, himself a veteran.
"We're a nation at war, and we need to support our military and their families," Blake said. He said all Americans should share time with our veterans.
Blake shared a recent moment, when his sons were able to meet Cleveland veteran George Allen, the region's only surviving Pearl Harbor survivor.
"God bless each and every one of you," he told the 60-plus military veterans seated around the Olympic Stadium infield.
A feature event of Saturday's program was an appearance by 91-year-old Marine Corps veteran and survivor of Iwo Jima Lloyd Koester, who threw out the first pitch before the start of the baseball game. It was a nifty, underhand toss to the Lee University catcher.
The Voices of Lee, under the direction of Danny Murray, performed throughout the early afternoon.
They sang "The Star Spangled Banner" as well as songs from all five branches of the U.S. military (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard).
Brew also presented special recognition plaques to representatives of the local military recruiting offices, an acknowledgement of their involvement in this annual event.
A moment of silence observation and a prayer were given by Air Force veteran from Operation Desert Storm Kristi Hamilton. She is the mother of Lee University pitcher Lance Hamilton.
The presentation of the colors was by Bradley Central High School Junior ROTC students, under the direction of Sgt. 1st Class Roger Wright.
There were several vendors, and special promotions, to raise funds for Military Appreciation Day. Items included military T-shirts, military hats, and silent auction items. Among the auction items were autographed Major League Baseball memorabilia.
Comments from Brew following the program, and before the start of the baseball action, stressed his appreciation to all the individuals, businesses and organizations who have become partners.
He said the seventh Military Appreciation Day was the biggest and best yet, and that he's eagerly looking forward to next year's event and the awarding of a third Bobby Taylor Scholarship to a Lee University student.
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