I read an excellent article in The Journal News last month about the Pelham High School hockey team’s outstanding work in supporting Army troops serving in Afghanistan (see article below this blog post). The team adopted the Golf Company of the 10th Aviation Regiment and regularly sent them letters and care packages. The team also wore Golf Company’s logo on its uniform.
I was so impressed with this wonderful effort of the hockey team that I attended its annual dinner last Thursday, March 31 and presented a Westchester County Proclamation to the team and made it their day in Westchester County. Each member of the team received a Certificate of Appreciation from the County. We also honored the team’s coach, Ed Witz, with a Proclamation for being named Coach of the Year.
Every day in the media we hear too many negative stories about young people, which is why I was so struck by the story about this hockey team in my district. Here are kids doing everything right: attending an excellent high school, playing sports on a terrific hockey team, and performing important public service to help our troops in combat. The boys on the Pelham High School hockey team are certainly role models and proved to not only be good students and athletes, but good people. I am sure their parents are very proud of them, and we should all be too. Let’s make sure that such impressive acts by teenagers in Pelham are recognized and celebrated.
Hockey: Pelham reaches out to combat platoon
By Mike Dougherty
The Journal News
March 10, 2011
In the breathless moments that come after the handshake line, it’s not unusual to hear adrenaline-fueled comments from athletes that mistakenly link the field of play with a field of battle.
Not at Pelham.
All season long, the Pelicans have been corresponding with members of a combat platoon attached to the 10th Aviation Regiment currently serving in Afghanistan.
They have sent numerous care packages to the unit, and every home sweater is now decorated with the crest of the Golf Company Intruders that promises Hell From Above.
“We used to look at every hockey game as a war,” said Colin Reilly, a junior captain. “We really had no idea what it was like until we started to hear from these guys.”
Pelham’s youth hockey program decided to adopt troops four years ago and the varsity team took over last season, exchanging words and parceling creature comforts to a platoon in Iraq.
“We started writing this season before we left for the Queensbury Tournament, and they wrote back asking how we did,” junior defenseman Graham Lambdin said. “It sounds tough over there and they’re really thankful for whatever we send them.”
There will be more stories to share after this weekend as the Pelican are off to Utica to play in the Division II state final four. First up is a 10 a.m. Saturday meeting with Williamsville East. A win lands them in the championship game on Sunday.
“It’s kind of the right thing to do, getting the kids involved,” said Robert Landis, who is the father of junior defenseman Matt Landis and helps orchestrate the communication and care packages. “They don’t have to believe in what’s happening in Afghanistan or Iraq, but they need to know what these folks are doing on their behalf.”
An introductory e-mail from 1st Lt. Andrew Brennan drew a pretty good picture.
The platoon leader, who pilots a UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter, described the various missions, ranging from dropping supplies and ferrying troops to flying the remains of a fallen service member back to begin the long journey home.
“Our company’s bread and butter is flying air assaults,” Brennan wrote.
They fly missions day and night, and often insert ground troops who are working in hostile areas to capture insurgents. Despite the miles and hours of separation, some in the platoon are hoping to catch a webcast of Pelham’s game.
“The guys like it when you write them,” Reilly said. “They have a lot to do, but they seem to like talking with us. We’re young. We’re athletes. Maybe it makes them feel like they did when they were younger. They’re amused by us.”
And it doesn’t take much to make the platoon happy.
The care packages don’t consist of more than basic items to make a difficult existence more tolerable — a magazine, a video game, a tube of toothpaste. Not long after the soldiers expressed a need for scarves to keep the chill out, Landis came upon a street vendor in Manhattan. Once he informed the peddler who they were
for, the price was promptly discounted.
In recognition of what Pelham has done, the platoon sent a flag that went along on a combat mission flown in January. Reilly and Matt Landis displayed the flag during the anthem.
“This has been a really good experience for the kids,” Pelicans coach Ed Witz said. “They need to know that people out there are working to benefit the country. It’s a real hostile environment, and if we can help somebody out with a package or some conversation, it’s something we need to be a part of.”