Military heroes lauded before Miller upset victory

U.S. veterans, service members honored at YHS ceremony

Yukon Millers’ players make a patriotic entrance onto the field accompanied by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marty Wisley to highlight last Friday’s annual Military Appreciation Night. The inspired Millers defeated Stillwater, 37-34, in an upset.

By Conrad Dudderar
Associate Editor

Military heroes were honored last Friday night at Yukon High School before a thrilling upset victory for the Millers’ football team.

The annual Military Appreciation Night was Sept. 8 at Miller Stadium, 1777 S Yukon Parkway.

The inspired Millers upset defending Class 6A-2 state champion Stillwater, 37-34, on a last-second field goal.

U.S. military veterans were recognized for their service and sacrifices to the country. They attended the game for free courtesy of the Yukon Athletics Department.

“We honored all veterans home and abroad, living or deceased, and their families,” said event co-organizer Wes McAtee of Yukon Public Schools.

Surrey Hills Elementary Principal Dr. Bill Pierce, a retired U.S. Air Force major, represented all military service members at Friday’s game.

An Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, Maj. Pierce retired in 2015 after a 25-year military career in the Army and Air Force.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, Flag Poles Honoring Our Veterans and Gold Star Families motorcycle groups delivered the game ball to Pierce.

Pierce then delivered the ball to the team captains and referees before U.S. Army Capt. Johnathan Buckmaster presented the coin toss.

“This event began 10 years ago when I first joined the Patriot Guard Riders and rode a mission similar to this in Blanchard,” said McAtee, YPS’ Fine Arts Center director. “Seeing 60 players run across the football field holding flags really touched me.

“I decided that we needed this in Yukon. It has gotten bigger each year. I’m honored that so many got behind my vision of what this could be.”

Some 85 Yukon Millers’ players ran across the Miller Stadium field last Friday night carrying U.S. flags and poles as part of the patriotic celebration.

“It has been amazing to see such support for our veterans,” McAtee said, thanking the American Legion, Locke Supply, Ace Hardware, and many individual contributors.

“We also use the flags for our Veterans Day celebrations throughout the district. This was the first year we invited other veteran-honoring motorcycle groups to join us. There were 35 motorcycles and 45 total riders and passengers.”

The Patriot Guard Riders were founded in 2005 to shield families of fallen hero veterans and first responders from those that would disrupt the services of their loved ones.

Since 2020, Flag Poles Honoring Our Veterans has honored 484 veterans across Oklahoma with flagpoles in their yards.

Gold Star Families honors those families that have lost loved ones during their military service.

Wes McAtee of Yukon Public Schools leads the Patriot Guard Riders, Flag Poles Honoring Our Veterans and Gold Star Families organizations into Miller Stadium Sept. 8 for Yukon’s Military Appreciation Game.


Last Friday night’s Yukon Military Appreciation Game featured a special military flyover at the start of the National Anthem that had been arranged by former YPS Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jason Brunk.

The National Anthem and halftime show were performed by the Pride of Yukon marching band, led by drum majors Luke Matthews, Jack Adair and Kierra Mickle.

Members of the University of Central Oklahoma ROTC Color Guard presented the colors followed by a moment of silence honoring veterans who have passed.

Just before kickoff, the public address announcer asked veterans in the crowd to stand and be honored for their “service and sacrifices you make to afford us the freedoms we enjoy today.”

At halftime, organizers recognized these YPS faculty and staff members for their military service:

  • SSgt. Jamie Hardin, U.S. Army Reserves
  • Capt. Mark French, U.S. Army
  • Sgt. Elsa Fuller, U.S. Army
  • Spc. Jon DiProfio, U.S. Army
  • Maj. Bill Pierce, U.S. Air Force
  • MSgt. Victor Foster Jr., U.S. Air Force
  • SSgt. Louis Godino, U.S. Army
  • William Ferguson, U.S. Navy
  • Spc. Gary Jech, U.S. Army
  • Sgt. Fernando Zamarripa, U.S. Army

Foster heads the list with 26 years of military service, followed by Pierce with 25 and Hardin, Godino and Zamarripa with 22 each.

McAtee offered special thanks to Dennis Raath, who arranged riders from the Flag Poles Honoring Our Veterans and Gold Star Families; and the Yukon Band Boosters, for helping with the flag deployment and offering free food to veterans.

Other military service members and veterans who contributed to Yukon’s Military Appreciation Night were:

  • Oklahoma Air National Guard: Maj. Dale Turnbull, Capt. Daniel VanVolkinburg, Col. Scott Townsend, MSgt. Andrew LaMoreaux, TSgt. Tynisha McKelvey, Lt. Cody Willingham, and Zachary Bingham.
  • U.S. Air Force: Lt. Col. Jonathan McDonald and MSgt. Michael Reynolds.

Yukon’s cheerleaders and pom squad members also presented patriotic performance before an appreciative crowd.

The Pride of Yukon marching band performs the National Anthem as the University of Central Oklahoma ROTC Color Guard proudly flies the U.S. and Oklahoma flags.