Crestwood hosts Second Annual Salute to Service

·3 min read

Sep. 10—MOUNTAIN TOP — What's more American than Friday night football and camo?

That was exactly the scene for Crestwood High School's Second Annual Salute to Service at the school's football stadium where veterans and active duty service members were honored before the home field Comets took on the Wyoming Area Warriors.

Crestwood's celebration of the military began last year as the brain-child of assistant coach and alumnus, Martin Bibla. Bibla himself played professional football, including five years in the NFL where he spent four years with the Atlanta Falcons and a year with the Denver Broncos.

Bibla had one word for his motivation to get the Salute to Service going: Freedom.

"We're all here doing our thing, bickering over parking spots, because we can, because we're free," he went on to say. "I wanted to make sure the veterans get their due. It's a great community event. Freedom's a big deal. I was never a service member but I have a lot of respect, starting back in the NFL," he said, noting he has family members that have served. "I think they deserve everything. We have everything because of them."

Before kickoff at 7 p.m., members of Mountain Top American Legion Post 781 paraded the Colors out onto the field. The flag was then ceremoniously retired by members of VFW Post 7918, Slocum Township, to the tune of "Taps," played by Crestwood band director, Jay Thomas.

The folded flag was then presented to the evening's guest of honor, Raymond Samolis, of Mountain Top.

Samolis is a U.S. Army Veteran who served in the Pacific Campaign of World War II from 1944 to 1946. His tour took him through Pearl Harbor, where he witnessed the damage wrought by the Japanese attack. He also served at Iwo Japan as the Allied Forces prepared for their final attack on mainland Japan.

The Warriors then took to the field, followed by the Comets, decked out in their camo jerseys, courtesy of the National Guard, waving flags and rallying the home crowd as a cannon was fired.

The National Anthem was then sung as a duet by State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski and his granddaughter, Mia Costello, an 11th-grade student at the high school.

After that, the game was on.

While a hometown win would only make the evening even better, seeing the community rally behind its veterans was certainly the highlight.

Sergeant First Class Kevin Walters, 109th Field Artillery Regiment out of Kingston, said of the night, "It's a great opportunity to come and support those that support you."

And as Bibla said in finality, fans could expect to see "a community pull together and back their team and veterans ... and play a game ... because we're free."

Bibla intends to continue the Salute to Service yearly, "as long as I'm around and able," he said. And with three sons; Mariusz, in junior high, Lincoln, a sophomore linebacker, and Magnus, a senior defensive lineman and tight-end, it's certain the event will continue for the foreseeable future.