By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

Gold Star Family Game Preview

Jacob Thompson
CWU softball player handling a softball to a child of a fallen soldier.

Coming up next Saturday, April 13, the CWU softball team will be taking on the Western Oregon University Wolves during the annual Gold Star Family game. The purpose of this game is to honor the families of fallen soldiers, airmen, marines and seamen that lost their lives overseas. This game has been a tradition for the university for several years, and started before the head softball coach, Joe DiPietro, even came to CWU. 

“I was down at University [of the] Incarnate Word in San Antonio,” DiPietro said. “Before I came here, and we did [Gold Star Family games] there, obviously San Antonio is a big military city.” 

DiPietro went on to explain how he drew inspiration from his friend Joe Spina from Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Chaos Softball team games during their seasons. 

“[T]hey would have almost like a flag kind of jersey,” DiPietro explained about the jerseys they wore. “They’d have the stars and stripes on it, then their girls’ numbers, and then underneath that would have a name of a fallen person. And each girl would honor that individual. And I saw that and I thought it was pretty cool.” 

DiPietro brought the Gold Star Family games to the university with the help of the Professor of Military Science, Lieutenant Colonel Paolilli. The event is a collaboration between the Wildcat Battalion ROTC program and the CWU softball team. 

“So Joe Paolilli actually came one day and sat in the dugout with [the team] and told them what the meaning of Gold Star is,” DiPietro stated. “Now he wasn’t long, but they were really interested, like they asked him questions. You know they were invested because some of their grandparents or parents … were military people too.” 

According to the American Gold Stars Family Organization, Gold Star Families are those who have lost an immediate family member who died as a result of active duty service. As such, it is an emotional game every season for the athletes on the softball team. Assistant coach and former player Rhaney Harris commented on the impact that these games have had on her. 

“It was always a very emotional event for me, just because I don’t have very many close family members who have ever been enlisted, but seeing the emotion and just the lights on a little kid’s eyes when we give them a ball or we give them the plaque or whatever it is, I think,” Rhaney said. “I think it’s important that the girls see that and understand that because those families have gone through a lot and some of our girls don’t understand that.” 

This year, the CWU softball team will be honoring 13 families during the game as well as wearing jerseys that will have the name of those fallen members and an embroidered gold star on the back. 

With Memorial Day coming up in a month, DiPietro talked about the significance he wishes to impart on the softball players.

“I think that’s the other thing,” DiPietro explained. “Unless you’ve been involved with a family like that, that’s lost someone, you just go about your business you know. But when you’re involved with someone who made that sacrifice, it hits you different. It really does. When you read about that stuff or you know, you see a video of … a fallen soldier being transported back home and like the family meets him at the airport, when they take them off the plane and stuff like that. It kind of hits you again.” 

The Gold Star game will be a double game day starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, with a follow up game at 3 p.m. 

Softball player representing Captain Antonio Crawford for last year’s Gold Star Game.
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