Forest Lake assistant coach Jennifer Schulz embraces Specialist Mariah Carson of the 434th Chemical Company. Carson has served in the Minnesota National Guard for three years.
Military Appreciation Night at the Forest Lake girls’ high school hockey game on Tuesday night was not only a tribute to those in the armed forces but a testament to the persistence and ingenuity of a high school junior.
Lily Walesheck, a forward for the Rangers’ varsity, engineered the evening at the Forest Lake Sports Center with a little help from her dad, Brent, and the Forest Lake Booster Club, but head coach Todd Gutterman is adamant that the teenager was the one who held the other parties accountable during the process.
“You know how much it meant to her when originally we just couldn’t do it last year, and she stayed persistent with it and came back with the idea to make sure we didn’t drop the ball,” Gutterman said. “I’m extremely proud that she came up with the idea and then she continued to follow through with it to make sure it happened.”
The Rangers acknowledged various military members, both past and present, during the pregame ceremony, which included a presentation of the flag from the color guard and a moment dedicated to honoring Mackenzie Fetch. Fetch is a senior defender for East Ridge, and is also a member of the Minnesota National Guard.
Forest Lake's Rachel Golnitz presents a token of gratitude to Minnesota National Guard member and East Ridge player Mackenzie Fetch on Tuesday night.
Walesheck initially proposed the idea last season, but logistics and timing did not match up favorably to implement it. Now that her intentions have been fulfilled, Walesheck said that her plan was born out of a desire to highlight what she believes is an under-appreciated group.
“(I thought), we should do a military appreciation night because I feel like they’re not honored as much for everything that they do for us,” Walesheck said. “They’re out there sacrificing their lives, and nobody honors them or gives them credit for what they’re doing as much as I think they should.”
Walesheck’s personal connections are dotted with military figures, including her grandfather, friend’s father, and a friend of her father’s. Those intertwined lives have Walesheck bursting with ideas on ways to serve those who serve the country.
“I really like the idea of helping veterans, and I want to do something more involved with the school,” Walesheck said.
“Starting something so we can raise more money for the (United Heroes League), or something else where we can help veterans who come back (from serving overseas) with mental illnesses,” Walesheck continued.
On top of the evening’s festivities, the Rangers took the Suburban East Conference battle 4-2 behind two goals from Rachel Golnitz and one tally each from Brooke Remington and Bailey O’Donovan.
Forest Lake's Military Appreciation Night is the brainchild of junior Lily Walesheck.