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Parkston to host Military Appreciation Night at football game tonight

PARKSTON -- Two months before a Parkston military unit is expected to deploy, community members plan to host an appreciation night for the servicemen and servicewomen.

The Parkston Commercial Club is sponsoring a fundraiser to sell red T-shirts to wear on Fridays while the FSC 153rd Engineer Battalion is deployed, beginning in November. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)
The Parkston Commercial Club is sponsoring a fundraiser to sell red T-shirts to wear on Fridays while the FSC 153rd Engineer Battalion is deployed, beginning in November. The shirts will be worn at Parkston's home football game tonight against Vermillion, in conjunction with the school's Military Appreciation Night. (Republic file photo)

PARKSTON - Two months before a Parkston military unit is expected to deploy, community members plan to host an appreciation night for the servicemen and servicewomen.

In conjunction with Parkston's home football game against Vermillion tonight, the school will have Military Appreciation Night to celebrate the South Dakota National Guard's 153rd Engineer Battalion, beginning at 6 p.m. with a tailgate outside of the football stadium, where hamburgers, hot dogs, brats and more will be served, according to Parkston Athletic Director Leslie Rylance.

Balloons will be sold for $1, and an organized release will be held prior to the start of the game.

Rylance anticipates local military personnel and support vehicles will be at the school throughout the night.

In July, more than 160 soldiers from Parkston and Huron units received official orders for a nine-month deployment to Kuwait, beginning in mid-November. Logistics and maintenance support will be provided by the battalion's Parkston-based forward support company.

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Several athletes on the team have personal connections to the 153rd, whether it be an uncle, father, friend or neighbor who will be deployed with the unit.

"We typically have one open tailgate per year, and last year we used it for a student who had medical issues and raised more than $14,000 for her," Rylance said. "So when this season came around and we looked for a local cause, of course this was a front runner."

Rylance added free will donations will also be accepted outside of the stadium in lieu of an entrance fee. All proceeds raised throughout the night will go toward the 153rd Bring Them Home for Christmas Fund, which hopes to garner enough funds to bring the soldiers home for a four-day Christmas break.

Tonight's event won't be the first focused on raising money for the fund.

In August, the Parkston Commercial Club began selling red T-shirts with the phrase "Home of the free because of the brave" in support of the 153rd. As of Thursday afternoon, 1,008 shirts had been purchased by community members from Parkston and across the country, according to Julie Semmler, who helped organize the fundraiser.

Semmler said shirts are being sold for $15 each, and approximately 75 shirts in all sizes will be available for purchase at tonight's football game.

Parkston community members are encouraged to wear the shirts to the game tonight, Semmler said, which could prove interesting as Vermillion's school color is red.

"It's just kind of funny how that worked out," Semmler said. "It'll be a sea of red."

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Parkston's head football coach Eric Norden said the fundraiser serves as an opportunity for the team to thank the unit's members, who are generally supportive of the school and its athletics.

"To be able to give back to them, especially with the sacrifices they're going to be making in the future, we're going to do that whenever and however we can," Norden said. "We are a true community with these people. We want the best for them and to show what they mean to us - that's what (tonight) is about."

Related Topics: PARKSTONFOOTBALL
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