As the United States honors its military Veterans today (November 11, 2015), the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced two new initiatives aimed at recognizing and giving back to military veterans who also serve as IHSA Officials.
The first is a new patch for officials who are U.S. Military Veterans that reads “U.S. Veteran” in red letters over a blue background, and is framed by a white star on each side (see above). The patch will be worn on the right arm sleeve by officials, just below the area designated for the display of the United States flag.
“This patch is a great honor and I will be putting it on my shirt,” said United States Navy Veteran and IHSA basketball and softball official Daimon Russell of Edwardsville, an Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class who served in support of Desert Storm in one of his deployments. “This simple and sincere gesture by the IHSA is a silent thanks to those that served, and we recognize that. We have been trained to pay attention to details and Veterans across the State of Illinois will see this and be thankful.”
IHSA Officials who are Veterans should contact the IHSA Officials Department for information on providing their military documentation, at which point they will receive a free patch.
"This patch is a way to display the sense of pride, service and patriotism that military Veteran officials have while in the public eye during athletic contests," said three-sport (basketball, football, softball) official Steve Terpening of New Lenox, a Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps who served in Afghanistan. “For me personally, there is a direct connection between military service and the officiating avocation, as I was introduced to officiating through the military flag football league in Norfolk, Virginia while on active duty. The first ever high school game I worked was between two Department of Defense schools in Rota, Spain."
In addition to the new patches, beginning in 2015-16, the IHSA will also begin to offer each Veteran one free renewal of their IHSA license. The Association will use the patch documentation information to determine the free licensures, with the number of free licenses provided each year to be determined based on the total number of registered Veterans.
“This is the least we can do to try and honor our military heroes who give back to high school athletics,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “Officials are the bedrock of interscholastic athletics, just as military servicemen and servicewomen are the bedrock of our freedom. It is our way of saying ‘thank you’.”
The IHSA issued over 12,000 licenses to officials in 2014-15 in the following sports: Baseball, Basketball, Cheerleading, Cross Country, Dance, Football, Gymnastics, Soccer, Softball, Swimming & Diving, Track & Field, Volleyball, Water Polo, and Wrestling,
"There is just so much overlap between officiating and military service,” added Terpening. “The values, characteristics, and skill-sets our military services hone in you match that of a good athletic official. As a veteran, it is fulfilling to participate in the officiating avocation, which calls upon these intangibles, as well as to be part of the officiating brotherhood and sisterhood that values them."