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Draper Journal

Corner Canyon Softball Team Remembers, Honors Fallen Heroes

May 05, 2016 01:16PM ● By Ron Bevan

By Ron Bevan |  [email protected]

Draper - The wearing of names on the back of uniforms is nothing new. It began as a way of identifying a favored player from the cheap seats. It is used today in professional ranks and most college athletic programs. Rarely does it make it to the high school level.

The Corner Canyon girls softball team is bucking that trend and wearing names on the backs of their jerseys. But it isn’t an attempt to discern one player from another. Nor is it done for vanity reasons. It is purely selfless, not calling attention to the players themselves.

Instead of their own names, the Chargers uniforms are adorned with the names of Utahns who gave the ultimate sacrifice: fallen soldiers.

“There are a lot of programs out there to bring awareness to different things and we participate in some of them,” Corner Canyon softball coach Garrett Hone said. “This year we wanted something different, something that would honor our military and at the same time perhaps have an impact on our girls.”

According to Corner Canyon principal Mary Bailey, the idea for honoring the soldiers came from assistant coach Quinn Linde. 

“I had seen a news story on TV where a young football team did something to honor fallen soldiers,” Linde said. “The coach had served in Iraq and was finding a way to honor friends he had lost. I thought it was a great idea we could try at the high school level. I thought our girls would benefit from it.”

Although Linde had never served, he had been around veterans, working with them while at Utah Valley University. The idea of honoring fallen soldiers was something he thought Corner Canyon should try.

“I didn’t want just a random list of soldiers,” Linde said. “I wanted to honor those from Utah.”

Once it was approved, Corner Canyon contacted TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors). According to its website, TAPS is a national program that “offers compassionate care to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in our Armed Forces.” TAPS uses a national peer support network to help Gold Star families (those who have lost loved ones) in the grieving process, all at no cost to the families. TAPS contacted local Gold Star families for permission and received enough approvals to uniform the entire team. 

The uniforms feature stars on one sleeve and stripes on the other. The soldier’s name appears just above the player’s number on the back of the uniform. Under the number is the phrase “Fallen, not forgotten.”

“This is such an amazing thing for this team to do for us,” Christi Barton said. “I can’t put into words how wonderful it is that these girls would honor all of our soldiers who they didn’t know and aren’t family to them.”

It’s been nearly three years since Barton’s son, Zack, died while serving in the air force. Zach’s name appears on the back of freshman infielder Josee Haycock’s uniform. 

“When [Haycock] sent me a picture of her in her uniform, I cried,” Barton said. “It is so wonderful that they are honoring our sons, daughters, husbands and wives. The coach told me the girls have loved what they are doing and have a deeper appreciation of our military. Keeping Zack’s name out there is really important to us, and this is very helpful.”

Hone has taken additional steps to help his Chargers grow from this experience. Making it more than just a token attempt at wearing the uniform, Hone has his girls contact and talk to the Gold Star families.

“The girls contact their respective families once each week,” Hone said. “Sometimes it is through email, sometimes text and sometimes even a call. I want the girls to understand more about the soldier and their families. Sometimes a family just needs someone there to listen.”

Suzanne Wagstaff agrees. Her son, Matt, died while flying a helicopter in Afghanistan in 2010. 

“Sometimes the hardest part about being a Gold Star is so many people are afraid to approach you,” Wagstaff said. “They don’t know what to say and don’t want to offend us. But we want to share our stories about our soldiers. We want to talk.”

Junior Abby Baysinger honors Matt’s name.

“She wanted to know Matt’s story, and I could talk about Matt all day long,” Wagstaff said. “This girl was way excited to learn about him. I love this program. The more we share the memory of our loved ones, the more the memory lives on. Also, with the generation today and the world they live in, it is important that they understand what our freedoms are and about the price paid to keep those freedoms.”

The uniforms are currently being worn only at home games. But the impact for the girls lingers on after the final pitch.

“When I first heard we were going to do it,, I thought it was an awesome opportunity,” senior captain Brianna Carroll said. “It is more than I imagined, however. When we wear the uniforms, we actually play better.”

Carroll honors Marine Cpl. Adam Galvez, who died in Iraq in 2006. Carroll has emailed and even called Galvez’s family.

“I have found out what an outstanding soldier and person he was,” Carroll said. “President Bush even spoke of him. When I wear the uniform, I feel like I am playing for him and his family.”

The team has found a way to honor their soldiers even when not in the uniform.

“When we don’t wear the uniforms, we write the names of our soldiers on our arms,” added senior first baseman Madalin Healy. “My soldier’s wife told me my soldier would think this is so cool. We always give it our all, whether we win or lose.”

Hone has decided the girls will wear the same soldier’s name throughout their careers at Corner Canyon. He has also invited the families of all the soldiers to the May 3 home game with Mountain View. And the Corner Canyon faculty will play the students in a basketball game on May 20 at 6:30 p.m., with the proceeds going to TAPS.