SIKESTON -- With a little help, it can be the biggest Bulldog's basketball veterans recognition ceremony ever.
Members of the Veterans Recognition Committee are asking area basketball fans to bring friends and family members who are veterans to the Sikeston Senior High School team's last regular season game Feb. 15 so they can be publicly honored for their service.
"Come out and support the Bulldogs and help the community recognize our veterans. We want to get the word out: don't leave your veterans at home -- take them to the game!" said Tom Austin, a member of the committee.
"This got started about 10 years ago," Austin recalled. "The idea came from Roger Sherman. We wanted to recognize vets at a time other than Veterans Day and Memorial Day."
With some help from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion chapters, a Sikeston tradition was established.
Austin said during a game selected in advance each year to honor veterans, an announcement is made several minutes before the first half ends to have all veterans gather at the stage end of the gymnasium along with a SHS faculty representative.
"This is not just for Sikeston veterans -- it's for any vets from the area that happen to be in attendance," Austin said. "At that point, the athletic competition between the two teams is set aside and we all become Americans."
During the halftime break, all the veterans in the Field House -- male and female, young and old -- are recognized and honored for their service.
One member each from the Sikeston American Legion and V.F.W. chapters are named as 'Veteran of the Year' for their organization as part of the ceremony. In addition, the Sikeston National Guard unit will post the colors prior to the varsity game.
"The first several years, we may have had 35-50 veterans that would be in attendance," Austin recalled. "That number has tapered off in recent years. This year we're making a special effort to maximize the exposure of our local veterans."
Austin said he would love to see 300 veterans show up for the ceremony.
"We've got hundreds and hundreds of veterans in the local area -- the American Legion has over 500 dues-paying members," he said. "If everybody makes an effort, there's no reason we can't do it. That would be impressive."
Those veterans who would like to come but don't have a way to get to the game need not worry.
"If transportation to the game is a problem, call the high school," Austin said. "They will get the word to us and we'll make arrangements to pick them up."