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MILITARY APPRECIATION CREATES ONE HELL OF A ROAR FOR THE RAPID CITY RUSH

Tuesday, March 19th
MILITARY APPRECIATION CREATES ONE HELL OF A ROAR FOR THE RAPID CITY RUSH

Inside the Rapid City Rush locker, the rhythmic clack of sticks coming off the rack, the unmistakable tearing of tape, and the snap of a helmet strap provide the soundtrack to life as an ECHL hockey player.

 

The sounds reverberate down the halls and combine with the crowd's welcoming roar of approval as skates cut into a fresh sheet of ice with a recognizable deep rip.

 

It's a loud symphony of enjoyable notes, and while it is the soundtrack of weekend evenings at The Monument, the heartbeat of the area is found somewhere else.

 

High overhead, the whirring of jet propellers commands attention at Ellsworth Air Force Base. With upward eyes and detailed gazes, mechanics, pilots, and techs live each day with the deep growls of engines and the high whines of tools taking care of our nation's aviation.

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The Army's boots march in time as commanding voices instruct the finest men and women on the best way to accomplish excellence. Even the Navy's sailors or the Marines are in awe of the cacophony that floods daily life in Western South Dakota.

 

The heartbeat of our area is our military. Though hockey players battle daily between the glass, the most important game of the season in Rapid City honors those who go to war for our freedoms.

 

For the 16th season, the Rush will celebrate their annual Military Appreciation Game, presented by AARP South Dakota, on Saturday, March 30th to close out a six-game homestand.

 

"I think these nights are necessary to show our appreciation and gratitude for what our military does," said Rush co-captain Logan Nelson.

 

This will be Nelson's fifth Military Appreciation Night with the Rush organization and his first with a letter on his sweater. Another returning player, Brett Gravelle, has also experienced the one-of-a-kind atmosphere the night has to offer.

 

"It's an incredible act of service to protect this country," said Gravelle. "With the large military fanbase here in Rapid City, this is an extremely important game for our community."

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Started in 2008, Military Appreciation Night has been a staple for the Rush. It's a common theme among minor league sports organizations, but the Rush do it better than most.

 

Many teams don specialty sweaters for the night in their celebrations. Last season, the Rush organization won Specialty Jersey of the Year at the annual ECHL League Awards in Las Vegas for excellence with their design, featuring the call signals of active-duty aviators in the 34th and 37th Bomb Wing.

 

The Rush set a team record, raising over $58,000 with last season's jersey auction. In the last two years, the Rush has raised $108,950 off specialty jerseys alone. In 2022, the Rush donated over $50,000 to Mission 22, a military-based non-profit, just off specialty jerseys.

 

The Rush is also proud to partner with multiple military and veteran non-profits throughout the season, including groups like Mission 22, Tee It Up for the Troops, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, the 40 and 8, 28 Munitions Booster Club, and a host of others.

 

In the 2023-24 season alone, the Rush have donated $4,025 worth of tickets, apparel, and memorabilia to active-duty military personnel, veteran non-profits, and local squadron booster organizations. In addition to that, the Rush has hosted fundraisers for military organizations that total $4,980 this season alone.

 

"The service that our local military community provides to our country is more important than words can describe," said Rush President Jared Reid. "For us with the Rush, games are great and we're proud to provide a family-friendly entertainment outlet for everyone, but Military Appreciation Night isn't just another game. It's our sincere thank you to our military, especially our local heroes."

 

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It's not just the Rush who are honoring the military either. Spire Holdings, the Rush ownership company, has a continuous dedication to celebrating, honoring, and remembering our armed forces. 

 

Spire Motorsports, in conjunction with their Cup series drivers from the 2023 season Corey LaJoie and Ty Dillon, honored fallen soldiers on their cars during the Coca-Cola 600 last year. The group has also sent families of fallen heroes to the race in Charlotte, N.C., to be honored during one of NASCAR's largest military appreciation races of the entire season. 

 

"I've been part of a lot of emotional moments with military appreciation," said Spire Holdings president Todd Mackin. "It's a huge game for our community in Rapid City and it means a lot to all of us."

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This season's Rush game will again feature staples of Military Appreciation Nights from the past for the Rush. The giant flag unveiling during the national anthem, the recognition of three Black Hills Surgical Hospital Heroes of the Game, and military working dogs with civil engineering units outside the arena.

 

The specialty jersey this season is themed to the D-Day landing, celebrating its 80th anniversary in June, and was designed by local artist Aaron Pearcy.

 

The Rush is also excited to honor women in the military to end Women's History Month this year, and add more elements to the fan-favorite traditional ones honoring and recognizing our local heroes.

 

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"They not only put their lives on the line but are finding a bigger purpose in protecting and serving Americans at home and abroad," said American-born goaltender Jason Pawloski.

 

In Rapid City, it's not just an honor to pause and recognize the Armed Forces; it's a duty to do so. Whether you're pulling out your camera to capture the large flag on the ice, or saluting recruits sworn in at the arena, you can be sure Military Appreciation Night gives you a chance to show gratitude and appreciation to our valiant troops.

 

On the ice and in the locker room, the attitude of honor and recognition won't fade, but the colors red, white, and blue will run a little deeper come that Saturday night.

 

You can be sure, that when the Rush score, it'll create one hell of a roar.

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