AKRON, Iowa | A period of quiet enveloped the football field at Akron-Westfield High School Friday night as four members of the Akron American Legion Post 168 came forward to present the colors prior to kickoff.
The solemn moment featured more than the National Anthem. Announcer Bob Brown began a presentation on Stephen V. Hoschler, the first Akron casualty in the Korean War.
You could hear a pin drop, as the saying goes. As it should be.
Hoschler served aboard the USS Partridge, a minesweeper, as it worked off the coast of Korea on Feb. 2, 1951, when it hit a mine and sank. Three others were killed and four went missing, according to a report in the Akron Register-Tribune at the time.
Brown, a member of the Akron American Legion, went on to provide a description of Stephen Hoschler's life. The son of William and Henrietta Hoschler, he was born in 1919, graduated from Akron High and enlisted in the U.S. Navy one month prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in two theaters of war during World War II and was in his ninth year of service when he was killed, leaving behind his mother, five brothers and two sisters.
Coincidentally, the local American Legion Post is named for Hoschler's cousin, Albert E. Hoschler, the first Akron soldier killed in World War I. Albert Hoschler died in France one year before Stephen was born. Albert was 19 when he was killed, the victim of a German offensive on March 5, 1918.
I attend football games each Friday evening. And I'm thankful many schools still have the U.S. flag presented by veterans at midfield. I think it's a great touch, a visible and public reminder that we can assemble freely because of the sacrifices men and women of our military branches have made. Men like Albert and Stephen Hoschler, who should not be forgotten.
"We've presented the colors before the game for as long as I've been around," said Brown. Shining a spotlight on an Akron soldier, sailor or Marine killed in the line of duty is a recent development, dating back two seasons. Brown said it was the brainchild of Post 186 Commander Warren Thompson, a retired veterinarian.
"Each week, Warren has me do something like that," said Brown.
In the opening week, Brown didn't highlight a local veteran, though. Rather, he gave a short talk about teachers and the work they do. "Warren had me do a special thank you to our teachers before our first game," Brown said. "I think he wanted to do that because the school year was getting started."
"We're very honored the American Legion does this for each football game," said Derek Briggs, Akron-Westfield High School principal. "They also do a flag-raising ceremony at the start of the school year. They're very involved in our school and community. We're thankful for all they do."