AVON LAKE, Ohio (WJW) – A fallen soldier was honored by a grateful community and alma mater that promised to never forget his sacrifice.
Friday night, at Avon Lake’s first home game of the season, fans in the stands wore red, white and blue while the family of Army Capt. Michael Medders was escorted onto the field for a special pre-game memorial.
“A lot of people didn’t know the story so putting together this ‘Shoremen Forever, Forever Shoremen’ program to honor him and bring it back to life, to the students, to the community and to the football program as well,” said Michael Stuewe, President of the Avon Lake Football Club.
Medders was #66 on the field when he played for the Shoremen before graduating in 2001.
He went on to college, enrolled in R.O.T.C. and was just 25 years old when he was killed in the line of duty in Iraq in September 2008.
At the time, hundreds lined the streets and pledged to always remember him.
“He was a tremendous leader and a phenomenal friend,” said Andrew Dlugosz, Avon Lake defensive coordinator. “It was tremendous to see all of Avon Lake come together on that particular day. I mean, the outpouring of support and unconditional support.”
Afterward, a locker inside of the varsity locker room was sealed with his jersey and dedicated to Medders. A lane behind the stadium was renamed Medders Way.
Now, more than a decade later, they held another ceremony to teach a new generation about their friends’ true sacrifice and courage.
“It’s phenomenal night for everybody in the military, but it’s also a night to remember that things are not free,” said Dlugosz.
The #66 and an American flag were put on every helmet. A video showing many of Medders’ accomplishments was played on the scoreboard before the National Anthem, followed by a moment of silence.
A special #66 flag was also created and presented to the Medders family on the field, with students and players intently watching the ceremony.
“We always say, ‘forever a Shoremen,’ so the fact that they know wearing that banner across their chest just like he did when he was a high school football player, everybody’s a part of that now,” said Dlugosz.
Additional dedications are planned throughout the season.
They also printed out the names of all of Avon Lake’s fallen heroes from WW1, WW2 and Vietnam.
Stuewe says they hope the public gained understanding Friday night and will always be grateful for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.