Prep softball: Corner Canyon team pays tribute to fallen military personnel

First Published      Last Updated May 17 2016 10:10 pm

Prep softball » Every player on the roster wears a jersey bearing the name of someone who died in service.

The chance to have last names on their jerseys isn't an honor every high school softball player gets to have.

But the names on the Corner Canyon uniforms don't actually match the ones on the lineup card that Chargers coach Garrett Hone hands to the umpires at the beginning of each game.

Instead of Opheiken, Dale, Parker, Healy or Wansel, what spectators see instead are Ssgt. Parker, Sgt. Parr, Cpl. Griggs, 2Lt. Alley and Maj. Funk.

Corner Canyon senior Madalin Healy, for example, has on her back the name of one John Alley.

The two are not related, however. Alley, an Air Force second lieutenant from Bountiful, died at age 26 in 2008 while training in Florida.

Up until the very beginning of this season, Healy had not heard of Alley. But, as part of a project through TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), she and her teammates have been honoring military members from Utah who have died while serving.

"Even at the beginning of the season, it was kind of a surprise to us," Healy said. "It was kind of like, 'OK, how are we going to go about this?' Then they explained that we'd be talking to their families and trying to get to know them.

"It's just been a cool experience because we're not out there playing for ourselves," she added. "We're not egotistical about it, instead we have to be selfless about it — remembering those who have fallen."

Assistant coach Quinn Linde was the driving force behind the project with TAPS. Linde said he first got in contact with the organization "six or seven months ago" and initially thought the names for the uniforms would come from military personnel from around the country.

In fact, as TAPS informed him, there was, sadly, enough loss from Utah to supply names for almost the entire team.

"A lot of these families are really eager to come to our games and be a part of these girls' lives," Linde said. "It's been really humbling to see how the attitudes have changed, to talk to some of these families who have had soldiers recently pass away.

"It's been really cool to see that, some of them fighting back tears as they read these emails," he added.

For players like freshman Quincy Wansel, who wears the name of Major Brad Funk, this won't be a one-year commitment.

The name of the person who has fallen will be on the player's back for the duration of their Corner Canyon career.

"I emailed his wife, and his wife is so lovely," Wansel said of Funk's widow Jennifer, who lives in North Ogden. "We talked about their kids and his hobbies and all that he used to do — his favorite songs, his favorite everything."

Funk died when the T-38 aircraft he was in crashed in Wichita Falls, Texas in 2008.

"I was a little timid. I didn't want to upset her by anything I said," Wansel said. "But I talked to my coaches and they gave me a little pep talk."

"As a coaching staff, we thought, 'What can we do to get these girls to think not only about themselves, but other people as well?' " Hone said. "We really feel like they're learning about somebody else's culture, their history — a personal experience."

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