HILLSBORO, Mo. – Hillsboro High School honored veterans and prisoners of war in an unprecedented way at the first ever POW/MIA remembrance football game against Festus on Friday night.
Hillsboro High School recently became the first POW-MIA designated school in the country with help from the Jefferson Military Barracks. In their first remembrance event, the focus was centered on honoring Michael Blassie, who lived in St. Louis and gave his life serving as a pilot during the Vietnam War.
Blassie’s remains were buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Virginia until 1998 when they were identified via DNA testing. Once identified, Blassie was moved to the Jefferson Military Barracks near the POW/MIA museum in St. Louis.
“We have to make sure our children, our students, understand what sacrifices have been done for them by service men and women,” Hillsboro Intermediate School Principal Scott Readnour told The Heartlander. “We can’t ever forget about that, that’s our goal.”
The event started at 5:30 p.m. and included displays featuring a silhouette of a Fallen Soldier Battle Cross, a confinement box used for torturing prisoners of war, and a ‘Missing Man table’, among other displays, with information on each for visitors to read. Scott Airforce Base Color Guard also presented flags at the event and a large POW/MIA flag was hung on a Hillsboro fire truck overlooking the field.
The Hillsboro football team honored Blassie and other POW/MIAs with special helmets that read “Hawk Zero Two” on the back, which was Blassie’s military call sign. Additionally, the school got connected with someone who has an antique World War II dog tag maker, so special teams’ players for Hillsboro sported dog tags which also read Blassie’s call sign.
A stage hosted the town’s mayor, school superintendent, the President of POW-MIA Board, bugler for the Jefferson Barracks and Michael Blassie’s four siblings. The announcers spoke about Hillsboro High School’s first ever POW/MIA designation, the POW/MIA museum and recognized different individuals who have been POW/MIAs. The event concluded by honoring Blassie and his family and awarding them a helmet and dog tags of their own.
According to Readnour, the idea for the event immediately received unwavering support from the school administration, the community, police and fire departments and even from their rival, Festus High School.
When the players were made aware of the event, they were “very remorseful” and “extremely grateful” for Blassie and other veterans’ sacrifices.
“Our program is honored to be a part of this event and do our small part to bring awareness,” said Hillsboro Head Coach Bill Sucharski, who Readnour consulted with about the initial idea. “Our players have really taken this to heart and are supportive in doing all we can. My father was a Vietnam veteran so this is very near and dear to my heart.”
Readnour hopes to continue doing similar events and said it was “something special” to have the community come together in support of veterans. He also hopes it relays a message of support and solidarity to all veterans, especially those who gave their lives or lost a family member.
“There are places around this country where people may not love the country… but that’s not here,” Readnour declared. “Those that are veterans, those that are serving, have served, and those families that have had to sacrifice, they need to know that we care and that we are so thankful and grateful for what they did.”