WARSAW — Members of the Young Tigers Football & Cheerleading program and players from the Warsaw High School football team gathered at Oakwood Cemetery in Warsaw Saturday, May 18, to place flags at the graves of veterans.
The flag placement prior to Memorial Day is a Young Tigers tradition that began in 2005.
“Football players and cheerleaders are encouraged to participate, although this is not mandated,” said Dave McCool, head coach at Young Tigers Football & Cheerleading. “We began doing this for the American Legion as we were looking for ways to give back to the community and also teach the kids the importance of taking care of a community that takes such good care of us and to honor the veterans who have fought and died for our freedom.”
“This year we are pleased to say that it will be the (entire) Warsaw football program placing the flags. The high school players will be joining our kids to help place the flags,” McCool stated last week. “Coach (WCHS head football coach) Bart Curtis and his staff are all great mentors, not only to players and kids in our community but to all of us involved with Young Tigers.”
The Young Tigers Football program started in 2002, founded by Allan Ross, Mark Stamper and McCool. In 2004 cheerleading was added to the program. In addition to the flag placement at the cemetery, YTF players also run the hot chocolate stand for the Warsaw Parks & Recreation Department during the Christmas season, helping to raise money for maintenance and additions to the Central Park holiday light display.
Kosciusko Community Senior Services Executive Director David Neff, whose dad was a veteran, recalled visiting his father’s grave last year shortly before Memorial Day.
“Kids from Dave’s (McCool) program were putting flags on veterans’ graves for the Memorial Day weekend,” said Neff. “I got there just as they were putting a flag on my Dad’s grave. I thanked the young man who was doing that. It really choked me up.”
McCool, a veteran himself, said, “It’s not only important to honor our veterans, but it’s important as a community to give back … because the community has given us so much. We’re very blessed to live in the community that we do.”
“Last year was the first year we did this with the Young Tigers,” said Curtis. “One of the mottos with our football program is ‘Service over Self,’ and our kids hear that all the time. We feel honored to be able to join forces with our Young Tigers and make football and service a community effort.”
McCool, Curtis and WCHS Football Assistant Coach Brady Jones spent the morning placing flags at the cemetery, alongside the students. Many parents joined in as well.
“They gave everything for us, and it’s the least we could do to give back to them,” said WCHS Junior Keagan Larsh when asked why he felt it was important to show up Saturday.
A Memorial Day service, conducted by John C. Peterson American Legion Post No. 49 and James W. Sittler Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1126, will take place at 10:55 a.m. Monday, May 27, at Oakwood Cemetery, Warsaw. There will be an address, followed by a roll call of deceased veterans.