Bucs unveil Heroes Day plans; POW/MIA chair

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Nov 12, 2019 at 4:22 PM

Veterans Day provided the perfect opportunity for the East Tennessee State University athletic department to unveil its plans for Saturday’s Heroes Day in conjunction with the football game against Mercer.

ETSU will honor military personnel as well as first responders with presentations and announcements throughout the game. All service men and women and first responders will also be admitted free of charge to Saturday’s game at 1 p.m.

The Bucs will be wearing an “ETSU Freedom” helmet, which features the stars and stripes within the “E” logo.

In addition, ETSU partnered with Rolling Thunder, Tennessee Chapter 4, to place an empty black chair inside Greene Stadium to honor the more than 91,000 prisoners of war and missing in action who have never returned home from previous foreign wars.

The “Gone But Not Forgotten” empty chair was dedicated in a brief ceremony led by ETSU athletic director Scott Carter and Lt. General Ron Hite, an ETSU graduate.

“The timing of Veterans Day could not have been better,” Carter said. “It’s in Section V, which we chose specifically for veteran. This day, the reverence it requires and demands of all of us with the appreciation of those who have served. This chair is dedicated to all of them who have not made it home. It’s in honor of the over 91,000 of them.

“When the players come into the stadium to complete the Buc Walk, these are the steps they go down. Every young man, every game is going to walk by this chair and it reminds them they get to play this wonderful game because of the men and women who have sacrificed so much.”

Greene Stadium is the 26th college football stadium across the country to install a POW/MIA chair. Through November 2017, there had been 21 of the chairs placed inside different Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia venues.

The first one was placed at the Tennessee Smokies Stadium in May 2008 and one was dedicated at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2011. Hite, a veteran of the 8th Infantry Division, was pleased to see the newest one at his alma mater. He pointed out it represents more than the number on the plaque.

“POW and Missing in Action, think of the families of that 91,000,” Hite said. “You multiple the number 20-30 times of people it impacted. What a great tribute, and Rolling Thunder is so supportive of our veterans throughout the year. It’s a great thing for our stadium, for our university to show how much we support veterans.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Hite’s name.

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