LOCKPORT – It’s definitely been an encouraging sign to see local schools who are receptive to having special recognition events along with their athletic competitions.
One of the events that has gotten bigger and better during its brief history is the Veterans Night Appreciation ceremony that has been an addition to a Lockport boys basketball game during the past few seasons.
This season’s Veterans Night takes place at 6:30 p.m. Friday when the Porters host Stagg at the East campus gym. It’s the fifth-straight year that the event is taking place.
All veterans who wish to attend can do so for free, and they will be served pizza and receive a shirt that says, “Thank you for your service.” The ceremony begins at 6:15 p.m., when the veterans will be escorted to center court and be recognized.
After drawing a group of about 100 veterans for last year’s special evening, Lockport teacher and Veterans Night organizer Mike Zaworski hopes to have more people being recognized Friday. He says that a few veterans who served in World War II will join others who have been involved in a range of military operations in this country and abroad.
“In the first year we had 22 people and then 42 the next two years before having 98 last year,” Zaworski said. “For people who were there, you could just see how special the night is. The whole idea behind this was to be able to have the community be able to say thank you since we don’t get an opportunity to do that to a large group of veterans all at once.”
Zaworski is grateful that Lockport’s administration has been supportive of the Veterans Night ceremony and looks forward to seeing it continue.
“It’s kind of cool that the Veterans Night takes place in an athletic venue where camaraderie and teamwork play such a role,” Zaworski said. “In the military you have to have everybody working together for the same cause in order to have success. Lockport Township High School has been beyond helpful in the whole process and making it happen.”
“It’s really special when you’re sitting there and you see the veterans walking off the court and you shake their hand and thank them for being there, and you see tears in their eyes. You know what it means to those men and women for having done what they did. Sometimes I just shake my head and go, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this is happening.’ ”
Veterans who wish to attend can email Zaworski at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 815-588-8591. There also is a link on Lockport’s page on il.8to18.com that allows for the veterans to provide information about service branch, time served and highest rank.