More than a Game: Contest on 9/11 Benefits Wounded Warriors

Mother of Marine and Kenowa Grad Organizes Event

Diane Schwaiger organized the Kenowa Hills Wounded Warrior football game with the help of Athletic Director Russ Gerbers

Diane Schwaiger is proud of her daughter Holli for serving in the United States Marine Corps, just as she was when Holli was named 2011 Homecoming Queen at Kenowa Hills High School. But as a mom, she can’t help but worry about what could happen to her.

“Being in the military is not easy,” Schwaiger said, her voice choking up. “We worry about sending our kids off to school when they’re kindergartners. This is a bigger worry.”

A Game to Support the Soldiers

When: Friday, Sept. 11, Kenowa Hills Knights vs. West Ottawa Panthers; activities begin at 6 p.m., kickoff at 7 p.m.

Where: Kenowa Hills football stadium, 3825 Hendershot Ave. NW

Who benefits: The Wounded Warrior Project, which aids veterans and armed services members who incurred a physical or mental injury or illness since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Services include post-traumatic stress disorder coping skills, mental-health support and readjustment to civilian life.

How to contribute: Proceeds from T-shirts sold for $15 will go to Wounded Warrior. They may be purchased at the game or by contacting Diane Schwaiger at DiSchwai@aol.com

To learn more: Wounded Warrior Project

Still, when she speaks of Holli and her son-in-law, Brandon Griffith, also a Marine, it’s the pride that comes through most strongly. And it’s the delight in knowing they are due to fly back home this week for a special event honoring them and others in the military.

Schwaiger is lead organizer of a benefit football game this Friday, Sept. 11, between the Kenowa Hills Knights and the West Ottawa Panthers. Proceeds from the game will go to the Wounded Warrior Project, a national nonprofit that helps armed services members and veterans injured since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As transportation secretary for Kenowa Hills Public Schools, Schwaiger thought a home game on Sept. 11 offered the perfect opportunity for such an event.

“It’s something we can’t forget,” Schwaiger said, noting the game will honor all current and former service members. “They’ve all been a big part of our history. We need to honor them.”

Not All Wounds Show

The varsity football program is cosponsoring the event with Ottawa-North Kent Blue Star Mothers, of which Schwaiger is president. The night will feature a Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle brigade; a ceremony honoring veterans with a bagpipe band; and the Kenowa marching band playing military tunes as wish lanterns are released to honor fallen soldiers. Brandon and Holli Griffith will participate in a pre-game color guard ceremony featuring a giant American flag.

T-shirts sold before and at the game count as admission and will raise funds for Wounded Warrior, along with special jerseys players and coaches will wear honoring members of the military. The Sports Clips men’s salon will also chip in with kids’ art activities to benefit its Help a Hero Scholarship program.

Schwaiger has been organizing the event for more than a year, ever since she learned there would be a home game on Sept. 11. She wanted to do something to help after learning more about military life from Holli and Brandon, who are stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Wounded Warrior houses Marines with disabilities there, and helps with other needs such as medical bills, home remodeling and the transition to civilian life, Schwaiger said.

Although Holli has not seen combat, Brandon has been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. While he was not physically injured, she said, “I think they all come back with some kind of emotional injury.

Holli and Brandon Griffith are U.S. Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Holli and Brandon Griffith are U.S. Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“That’s a lot of what Wounded Warrior is about,” she added. “It’s the emotional, traumatic injuries we can’t see.”

She hopes the game will raise awareness of veterans’ needs, especially the wounded who have been “putting their lives on the line. They’re coming home, needing our help now.”

Athletic Director Russ Gerbers said the event may raise students’ awareness too: “You hope they recognize what the older generations have done, the sacrifices they’ve made so they can have the freedoms they enjoy.”

Editor’s note: Those wishing to purchase a T-shirt for $15 may do so at the game or by e-mailing Diane Schwaiger at DiSchwai@aol.com.

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Wounded Warrior benefit game

Wounded Warrior Project

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