READ SOME REACTIONS TO THE BLACK LION AWARD
How are you coach? I haven't e-mailed you much this off-season. Chris McPhail, the young man that won the Black Lion Award in our program is going to the University of Minnesota to Wrestling Division I. He won the 189 state championship this year. I wanted you to know that he put down the Black Lion Award down as his second most memorable moment in High School behind the state title. Shane Strong, Health/PE/Head Football, Pine Island High School, Pine Island, Minnesota
Coach, I wanted to report on my first Black Lion award. I have never been one to hand out post season awards .(in my opinion the last thing Johnny needs is having his butt smooched by adults) But I wanted to let you know
that this is a fantastic concept. It was awarded by a young man just returned from 15 months in Iraq. It was an eye- opener for my kids. We live in an affluent town where most of the parents are quite satisfied to let someone else's children protect their freedoms. When the kids saw Sgt Foley walk in you could hear a pin drop. His uniform was immaculate and his chestful of ribbons impressive. When he announced to the kids that just a few years ago he had been a player in the same Canton Pop Warner program as them he really hit home. He did a fine job explaining his and his units experiences (over 500 ops in 15 months) and how leadership and teamwork played a vital role in their success and survival. He had crammed on Major Holleder the night before and was well prepared. The kids loved it. The coach (me) absolutely loved it! The past couple of years I have been doing some soul-searching as to my worth and motivation as a coach. I feel we actually did something positive here. I don't think the so-called stars of my team ever even appreciated the worth of our Black Lion winner this year. Now they do. He set the tone for everything positive that happened attitude wise with us this year. All season long this award was an abstract concept to these guys. Next year's returners will be striving to win this award! I am confident of that..One side light that I took particular pleasure in was the disapproval of some of the parents. You could just see it in their faces. Remember this is the Boston area. These people are the beneficiaries of the greatest freedoms mankind has ever produced and they have no idea. They have no appreciation for all the blessings we have here and absolutely no clue as to the heavy price paid to acquire and secure them. I made sure that our award party was a private affair not run by the program in case anyone complained (isn't that sad). Anyway as I scanned the room and noted the disapproving faces I measured their contributions to the Republic to that of little Kevin Foley, now Sgt Foley. They ain't even in his league! Thanks Coach. Finding your offense and learning that there are still like minded people in the world have put more of a smile on my face this year. Dan Lane Canton Massachusetts
I couldn't wait to share with you what happened at our fall sports awards banquet last night. Mr. Ernesto Vargas of the Black Lions, along with his wife Carol, was my special guest, on hand to present our Black Lion Award. He came with a jacket full of patches (including the Black Lion) commemorating his service in Viet Nam. I got to visit with him and introduce him to the principal and superintendent before the banquet started. Our football awards followed the other sports, and I kept the Black Lion award for the very end. I read the certificate to the audience (players, parents, etc.) and then introduced Mr. Vargas. He came forward and received a standing ovation from our audience. Then he shared briefly what it was like to serve in Viet Nam. When he presented the award to Cody Allen, Cody received a standing ovation as well. I think the audience understood how significant and meaningful the award really is.
Anyway, following the ceremony, Mr. Vargas and his wife stayed around for pictures with Cody and his family. Then he shared with my family and me many stories of his experiences. It turns out that he is a living, breathing hero. Not only did he receive the Purple Heart, he also received the Bronze Star. He told me about his experiences as a tunnel rat. And he is a class act all the way.
He and his wife thanked me repeatedly for having invited them, and his wife indicated that it was very special for Mr. Vargas to be recognized by our team. My wife and I have been invited to his home to see his Bronze Star and other war memorabilia. Mr. Vargas said he would be delighted to join us again next year, and I invited him to any of our football games that he could attend next season.
Cody Allen's parents were clearly moved by Mr. Vargas's presentation. It was a special night at Las Animas High School, and I think the Black Lion Award will be even more coveted thanks to Mr. Vargas.
Coach, what you have started with the Black Lion award is an incredible monument to Major Holleder and the men of the Black Lions. I am honored to be part of such a great award. Thanks again for all you do.
Greg Koenig, Las Animas High School, Las Animas, Colorado
I received Trevor Routman's Black Lion Award in the mail. Thanks for all of your hard work in remembering those fine men. You'll be glad to know that I quizzed the kids on the Don Holleder story during our football banquet. Out of 22 players there, 18 had read the story I gave them.
And, they could tell me facts so that I know they weren't B.S.-ing me. I don't think these kids get much on this subject in school, so your efforts help their education by giving them a sense of how hard-earned and precious our freedoms are. This is the real value of the Black Lion Award. In addition to the award winner, it benefits all of his teammates.
Regards, Keith Babb, Northbrook, Illinois
Saturday, December 15th, I presented the BLACK LION Award to a young man, Jonathan Skinner in Hope Mills, NC. Jonathan is a humble proud young man, he was picked to play cornerback and wide receiver, but due to injuries and realignment of the team plays, he was moved to defensive end and blocking tight end, he never complained, just did his job, even played on a badly
sprained ankle, and strived to help his teammates get better. This is a wonderful award that you have created and I hope I have many opportunities to represent the BLACK LIONS present this award. I was a squad leader with Delta Company, 2/28th during this operation and lost many friends on the 17th.
Thanks Again, BLACK LIONS! SIR!
Mike Stubbs, Operations Manager, Convergion, Charlotte, North Carolina
I had the great honor of presenting the Black Lion award to Shawn Bell last night at our banquet. Unfortunately, the banquet was scheduled before the awards came in, but it did not seem to matter to the recipient. The staff felt that this award needed to be presented in front of all his friends, teammates, and families gathered for the event. Shawn Bell's father was absolutely beaming with pride, and sent me this letter to pass on to you. Young Shawn also composed his own letter which I will pass on to you. A wonderful award, and one that I hope will soon be adopted for the other age groups within the organization. Coach Mark Rice, Beaver, Pennsylvania
As a graduate of the United States Miliatary Academy and his father, this award means very much to us. I was aware of the story of MAJ Holleder due to this experience and was very proud of my son's efforts being compared to a man of such character. My wife and I think of our son as a very nice and hard working young man. Although he is not always the best player on the field, he usually has the biggest heart and gives his best effort in all his endeavors. We appreciate the recognition of you and the Brighton coaching staff of his efforts to the team. I am sure this award and its meaning that transcends sports will be with him for a lifetime. Please pass on his and our messages to those who have created such an inspirational spirit through this award. I would also appreciate passing on our thanks to any coaches of his team we missed at the banquet last night. Thanks very much! Shawn Bell, Beaver, Pennsylvania
Thanks for the Black Lion Award. I gave it to Tony Smith and he and his family loved it. His grandfather told me that as soon as I started describing what it took to win the award he knew it was for Tony. His mother gave me a hug. Again thank you and the Black Lions. Coach John Dowd, Rochester, New York
Will be getting the Black Lion Award certificate framed for Keith and given to him by the end of the week. Still gives me chills reading the certificate itself. Even more so after seeing We Were Soldiers over the Thanksgiving weekend. I certainly hope all of our Vets in the area realize how proud I am to be an American, and how thankfull I am that they gave so much of themselves so that I can have the things that I do. Thanks Coach! Brad Knight, Galva-Holstein HS, Holstein, Iowa
We won the Toy Bowl on the night the 23rd. The following morning my wife and I flew our 3 kids to Washington DC for Thanksgiving and a week of vacation. The first order of business that day was to have my wife take a photo of myself with my 2 boys, each now a member of a Toy Bowl Championship Team, in front of the Wall, and the panel with the name of Don Holleder hopefully visible in the photo. That may sound corny but I assure you my boys understand the significance of the Black Lion and teamwork above individualism. John Bradley, Wichita Falls, Texas
I would like to know if the Black Lions have a way to accept donations. It is very kind of them to mail the awards. I know they have their reasons but our program would like to help defray some of the expense.
Our banquet was great, we did give a few individual awards. I have never given them out other seasons. We had a few kids that absolutely deserved something in recognition.
BUT - above all - our most prestigious award was in fact The Black Lion Award.
Glendon Eaton was absolutely shocked when his name was called His parents were so very excited. The boys' (genuine) surprise at receiving this award was a tribute to the selflessness this award exemplifies.
So if perhaps you can handle a donation for the Black Lions we would love to send one.
Dave Marcotte, Seabrook Rams, Seabrook, New Hampshire
Once again the Black Lions Award was a huge hit at our awards banquet on Thursday. For the second year in a row the award winner received a standing ovation, it was great. Thanks for bringing this award about, coach, and honoring a true American hero who deserves to have his story told all over the country year after year.
Greg Gibson, Orange High School, Orange, California
To Coach Tim and All those involved with the Black Lion (28th Infantry Regiment) Association -
First, let me say "Thank you"! I don't want to sound like a biased parent but for the first couple years Dustin played football - I wasn't sure what talent, if any, he had possessed. I started noticing that he would get upset with himself if he didn't make a play right or wasn't able to make a tackle, that use to really bother him. To comfort him, I would tell him just to do his best the next play and explain that EVERY play is not going to be perfect like he thinks it should be and all that mattered was just knowing he had the mind over matter to accomplish anything he ever wanted to do. Dustin is so very much like me in the way that we tend to put 150% of ourselves into everything we do, knowing that the rewards are not always immediate, but are sure, that if you do your best EVERY play (or choice, action, etc) was what mattered in the long run. I've never taught him that the scoreboard was the final result of the game. The final result of the game is how he felt about what he did to contribute to the bigger picture.
I'm SURE that other kids this year demonstrated those same characteristics which are described in the award and who, also deservedly so, could have been honored as well - but I believe what sets Dustin apart is he understands the magnitude of "the big picture", even at 10, he understands that there's MUCH HONOR in doing your best in every play rather than honor that may come with a winning score. It is only the people who can view not just football like this but also everyday life who can recognize this characteristic in others....hence, why I believe the Black Lion Award was created in the first place.
It is so refreshing for Dustin to finally have a coach that appreciates more than how many sacks he can make or how many tackles he accumulates or how many times he can be doubled-teamed in his blocking - but yet a coach who recognizes "the heart of a man/boy" in addition to the talent that contributes to the team. I got on the internet last night and read for myself the origination of this award that was presented to Dustin. The web site mentioned having the award recipient write to him and tell him how that award effected them and I want you to know that Dustin and I have every intention to send an email by the end of the week. I am SO PROUD of him Tim! For many years, it was just him and I. This award is not only an extremely honorable award for Dustin, it's also an indication that I have lead in him in a direction in which his parents, his Grandparents, his friends, and his coaches can surely be proud of.
Just as we thank you for ALL your hard work and dedication, all of us who know Dustin, appreciate EVERYTHING The Black Lion award stands for and we're thankful that their are people like Major Don Holleder, who despite whatever difficulties that face them, continue with the characteristics of "leadership, courage, devotion to duty, self-sacrifice, and - above all - an unselfish concern for the team ahead of himself."
In final thought, we thank you Coach Tim for having such a positive impact in Dustin's life! We're thankful for the courage Major Don Holleder showed when going into battle and the ultimate sacrifice he made for others, and we also thank the Holleder family for believing how important it is to issue this award in recognition of such characteristics in others; as their fellow family member had exuberated. This shall be a VERY THANKFUL holiday!
Sincerely, Jennifer Cyran, Cumming, Georgia - Mother of Dustin Manders - 2003 Recipient of the Black Lion Award
I have to say that The Black Lion Award has been an overwhelming success here. In Only the 2nd year of presenting this Award, it is already "THE" Award our players set out to win! Even now, players are saying they are going to work hard off-season to prepare for next season so they can win the Black Lion Award! I tell them it is more than just "off Season Preparation", it is Life Preparation and Character building.
I hope I can hold it together a little better this year, than I did last year. During the Award ceremony, when I was giving the background of the Award, and the History of Maj. Holleder, I could not hold back the tears. I broke down in tears. It took me a moment to re-compose myself to finish and present the Award. But that is just proof of how much I believe in this Award, and how Important and special this Award is. My Father In Law was there to hand out the Award - he is a Vietnam Vet, who saw action, and never talks about his experience there. But he even teared up, and said he was Honored to be a part of the award experience.
So we will see how this Year's Presentation goes!!
Thanks for Everything, Coach John Strack, Lone Pine HS, Lone Pine, California
(From a Black Lions coach to Army officers who assisted with the presentation)
LTC Kaiser, I want to thank you for arranging the visit by 2LT McCarty. His participation in our banquet was central to the whole enterprise, and the parents and players alike were very impressed with his representation of the US Army. Thanks again for your support of the Black Lion award.
2LT McCarty, Again, I sincerely appreciate your visit. My wife and children enjoyed your company, and I have already begun to receive feedback from those in attendance. Your influence on these young men is incredible, and your personal input on Maj. Holleder's involvement in football, and in Vietnam are invaluable to their maturation as young men. They have a far better idea of the courage, leadership, and self-sacrifice necessary to achieve a place in society that will allow them to be significant contributors. I love football, and I love the time I get to spend with these young men, but I still remain amazed at the influence on a young man that a man of integrity, in the uniform of service, can have in just a short amount of time. Again, thank you so much for your genuine input and sincere concern for the youth, and future leaders, or our country. I am certainly proud of the quality men and women serving in our armed forces.
Sincerely, Jody Hagins, Coach, Green Wave Football, Summerville, SC
We had our end of the season banquet on Friday . Our Black Lion Award was a big hit. Our first one was presented it to a young man who happened to be a captain. Usually a stoic person he and many coaches (including myself) got pretty emotional. He and all at the banquet know how honored he should be, and he is. Made for a great evening.
Thanks, John Irion, Queensbury HS, Queensbury, New York
I wanted to report on my first Black Lion award. I have never been one to hand out post season awards .(in my opinion the last thing Johnny needs is having his butt smooched by adults) But I wanted to let you know that this is a fantastic concept. It was awarded by a young man just returned from 15 months in Iraq. It was an eye- opener for my kids. We live in an affluent town where most of the parents are quite satisfied to let someone else's children protect their freedoms. When the kids saw Sgt Foley walk in you could hear a pin drop. His uniform was immaculate and his chestful of ribbons impressive. When he announced to the kids that just a few years ago he had been a player in the same Canton Pop Warner program as them he really hit home. He did a fine job explaining his and his units experiences (over 500 ops in 15 months) and how leadership and teamwork played a vital role in their success and survival. He had crammed on Major Holleder the night before and was well prepared. The kids loved it. The coach (me) absolutely loved it! The past couple of years I have been doing some soul-searching as to my worth and motivation as a coach. I feel we actually did something positive here. I don't think the so-called stars of my team ever even appreciated the worth of our Black Lion winner this year. Now they do. He set the tone for everything positive that happened attitude wise with us this year. All season long this award was an abstract concept to these guys. Next year's returners will be striving to win this award! I am confident of that.
Thanks Coach. Dan Lane, Canton, Massachusetts