FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The original plan was to honor fallen soldiers by wearing their names on the back of their football jerseys, but when that got rejected, the Fossil Ridge High School football team took to the field for military appreciation night Thursday honoring the fallen men and women a different way.
“It's bigger than the team, it's bigger than the sport. It's for our nation,” said Ben Visee, a senior cornerback.
"It's finally focused on what it should be about," principal Will Allen said.
More than football, the game was about those in the United States Armed Forces who paid the ultimate price.
"It gives us something to rally behind,” Visee said.
“It makes me proud to look out there and see that they realize there are others that have made a sacrifice and done things so they had the freedoms to play football and the freedoms to get a public education,” Allen said.
On the backs of their jerseys, each Fossil Ridge football player sported an American flag patch. And on their shirts underneath, they wore the name of a United States soldier who lost his or her life for our freedom.
“It's a good reminder of what we are doing tonight. Proud to wear this,” Visee said. “We are fortunate, we are honored, we are grateful to have that name on our back,” he said.
Despite not getting to wear the names on full display on their jerseys, Visee said the players were grateful to honor the men and women in any way.
“The overall message is still there. We are just here to honor them however we can. It was a little bit of a bummer but the same message is there,” he said.
“We wanted to honor the thousands of men and women. We didn’t want to honor just the 85 or so that were researched,” Allen said.
It’s a gesture that made Bob Sandri proud. His son, Sgt. Matt Sandri, an Army combat medic and paratrooper, was killed fighting in Iraq in 2004.
“A wonderful gesture,” Sandri said. “I hope its an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives."
The players said it's an experience they will carry with them long past Thursday night's game.
This was the first military appreciation night put on by Fossil Ridge. The principal said it is a tradition it plans to continue.