Ferris State University Honors Heroes at Annual Veteran Appreciation Game

“This is patriot country and to recognize probably the most important thing a person does in their life.”

People were on their feet at Ewigleben Arena Friday night, but they weren’t just cheering for the Bulldogs.

The American Legion Post 98 and Ferris State University came together for the 10th annual veterans appreciation hockey game.

Ferris auctioned off players’ special jerseys to present the post with a $5,000 check. “This is very special for the people of Big Rapids and especially for the veterans,” says assistant post commander Mark Brejcha said.

Friday was about more than just hockey.

Ferris State honored a different branch of the military every five minutes.

“Those serving we ask to stand and then we recognize them and there’s a thunderous applause oh my gosh,” Brejcha said.

Assistant post commander of the American Legion Post 98 says seeing the veterans’ reactions is very special.

“To see them and see their faces and that smile never leaves even as the game’s over and they’re exiting. There’s a lot of high fives there’s a lot of pats on the shoulder,” he said.

Every veteran walking into the game received poppy. And a poppy actually has quite a history for veterans. All 2,000 of them were donated by the American Legion.

“The poppy that signifies the end of World War I, the first plant to grow basically on the graves of our service people were the red poppies. This signifies so much to us. The red poppy is to honor our fallen,” says post commander Bill Yontz.

You may know him as Dynamite the Clown, but Friday night he was in the spotlight for something much more significant.

“When I was in Korea, I was on the Battle of Pork Chop Hill. Boy that was no picnic,” says Korean War Veteran Rudy Grahek.

“This man carried a thirty caliber machine gun, fought bravely through the fight and survived it virtually unscathed,” Yontz said.

Grahek says being there was something he’ll look back on fondly for the rest of his life.

“That will be a souvenir forever. Really, I’m 87 and boy a night like this makes me feel really young again. I just really enjoy it,” he said.