What’s not to love about Saturday's forecast? Sunny skies with spring temperatures in the mid-60s, maybe a light northeasterly breeze, a baseball doubleheader featuring a pair of NCAA Division II …
What’s not to love about Saturday's forecast?
Sunny skies with spring temperatures in the mid-60s, maybe a light northeasterly breeze, a baseball doubleheader featuring a pair of NCAA Division II rivals from the Gulf South Conference, food, patriotic music and an endearing tribute to America’s veterans — past, present and future.
It’s an annual occurrence on the Lee University campus and it’s taking place at the remodeled Olympic Field.
It’s Military Appreciation Day and Saturday’s festivities will mark the seventh annual observance.
Brought to Cleveland again compliments of prime sponsor Bank of Cleveland, in partnership with a slew of local businesses and companies, this community service project of the Lee University Flames and head baseball coach Mark Brew will get underway at 1:15 p.m.
Gates and booths will open at 1 p.m. with a silent auction continuing through the first game of the twin bill pitting the Flames against Christian Brothers College hailing from The Bluff City, known to most as Memphis.
Milan Blake, a longtime Bradley County commissioner who represents the 3rd District, will deliver the keynote address. Blake is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm during the Iraq war.
Joining Blake in the patriotic program prior to the first game will be the university’s internationally known “Voices of Lee” whose talented a cappella singers will present a medley of military-themed music. The group will also perform “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the presentation of colors will be provided by Bradley Central High School JROTC under the direction of SFC Roger Wright.
“The pregame, patriotic program will include many highlights, one of which will be a special presentation to local recruiters of the armed rorces,” Brew said. “Another part of this military and veteran tribute will be a moment of silence and prayer by Kristi Hamilton, who served in the U.S. Air Force during Operation Desert Shield.”
To the Lee University family, and the Flames baseball team, her name is familiar, Brew stressed. She is the mother of Flames pitcher Lance Hamilton.
A key presentation during the afternoon will come with the recognition of Tavis Clonch, a U.S. Army veteran and Lee University student who is majoring in Health Science (pre-physician assistant).
Clonch received an honorable discharge from the Army after a 4½-year enlistment that ended due to medical ailments and injuries.
Clonch will be named the second recipient of the Bobby Taylor Memorial Scholarship launched last year. The scholarship goes to a Lee University student who is a veteran, or to a child or grandchild of that veteran who attends Lee.
Last year’s scholarship recipient was Sam Dean, a veteran of the U.S. Marines who served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A native of East Bend, N.C., Clonch graduated high school in 2010, and two weeks later entered basic training in the Army at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., for Infantryman school and remained there to complete training for Airborne school. After graduating Airborne, the Army stationed him at Fort Polk, La., where he finished his military service.
In his scholarship application, Clonch spoke of growing up with a desire to join the military and to become a soldier. While growing up, he learned new perspectives about what serving in the military actually meant.
“Being a soldier means willingly sacrificing some of our freedoms so that others can maintain theirs,” Clonch wrote. “It means walking with honor and military bearing as we represent, and fight for, our country. It means the potential for facing imminent danger, and doing it with courage and integrity.”
He added, “I learned so much about myself throughout my time in the Army, and I was able to pick up some invaluable skills and experiences that have been crucial in developing into the man that I am today, and how I interact with the world.”
The scholarship, which is funded through proceeds from Military Appreciation Day, is named after the late George R. “Bobby” Taylor, a veteran of World War II who served in the former Army Air Corps.
In his civilian life, Taylor spent much of his banking career with the Merchants Bank. Upon retirement from Merchants, Taylor co-founded Bank of Cleveland with his son, Scott. The younger Taylor now serves as chair and CEO of Bank of Cleveland, the only locally owned bank in Bradley County.
Bank of Cleveland celebrated its 30th anniversary on May 8, 2017.
On tap for the Saturday afternoon of patriotism and baseball will be family-friendly activities like a Kids Zone featuring inflatable bouncy toys, as well as military equipment for viewing, food booths, goodie bags for all veterans and the silent auction. Items included in the auction will be Major League Baseball memorabilia, a Nintendo Switch video game console, Lee University apparel, sports camps and food trays, among many other items.
The first pitch of the twin bill opener is scheduled for 2 p.m., with the second game getting underway at about 5 p.m.
This year’s Military Appreciation Day theme will be “We Salute You.”
Joining Bank of Cleveland as event sponsors this year are Deli Boys, Quiznos, Dos Bros, Zaxby’s, Chick-fil-A, Cleveland Daily Banner, Cleveland Tent & Rental Company, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Navy Federal Credit Union, Sports Clips, armed services recruiters (National Guard, Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force), Bayer, Jenkins Restaurant and Deli, Travis Godfrey Sales, Dick’s Graphics and Printing, Eric Evans-State Farm, Gobble’s Automotive, Chattanooga Lookouts, Stamper’s, Black Construction LLC and Peyton’s Southeastern.
Admission to the event, and to the games, is free.
Military Appreciation Day T-shirts, whose sales constitute a big part of the proceeds, remain on sale at three locations — the Bank of Cleveland main office downtown, the Cleveland Daily Banner and on the Lee campus — until mid-day Friday. Remaining T-shirts will be available for purchase at the Saturday event. Price is $10.
“It’s going to be a great day for honoring our veterans, for providing some family-friendly events and for playing some baseball,” Brew said. “We’re a proud part of this community, and this is just one way we have of giving back to our veterans and for everything they have meant to Cleveland and Bradley County, and to any student and that student’s family, who believe in what we’re doing on the Lee campus.”
Questions about Military Appreciation Day should be directed to Brew at email@example.com, or call 423-614-8638.
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