December 29, 2010

Isles to Honor Two Heroes Tonight, Special Meaning for NYI FYI

For those of you who have been frequently attending games at the Nassau Coliseum for the past couple of seasons, you know that the Islanders always bring in a veteran and acknowledge them to the crowd. Tonight the Islanders will give their military shout out to LCpl. Rob Gartner from our home town of Northport, NY.

There is a back story to this, and that is where the special meaning for me comes in.

Tim Scherer Sr. and his family have become friendly with the Gartner's over the past couple of years due to another unfortunate circumstance.

On July 21, 2007 Cpl. Chris Scherer was killed in Al Anbar province in Iraq after being struck by a lone bullet from an Iraqi sniper.

Seeing as how close we were in age, Chris and I came into contact a lot. The reason I got to know Chris was because we grew up as part of the same Boy Scout Troop - Troop 52 in East Northport. Chris was a year older than myself, but it didn't take him long to become one of the leaders among the others in the troop. He was someone who helped me learn a lot and someone I had some good sports conversations with.

Mr. Scherer served as the Scout Master for pretty much the entire time that I was involved in scouting. Needless to say, he and his family are good people that we have gotten to know more about over the years. The death of Chris seemed to bring everyone in the community closer together.

My father is a Vietnam veteran who has a leadership position in our local American Legion post. He is always looking to help veterans in need. My family had filled out a form for a subscription to readers digest for Chris not too long before he passed. He never got them.

Meanwhile, Gartner was the first recipient of the Cpl. Chris Scherer Scholarship, awarded at Northport High School to an individual who has aspirations of joining the Marines. This is when the Scherer's and the Gartner's first met and became friendly. Realizing that Gartner was returning, and that he was a die hard Islanders fan, Mr. Scherer wanted to give him and his family tickets to the Isles game tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mr. Scherer also provided the family with tickets to the Isles game at MSG on Monday night.

Learning about the honoring of current military members that the Islanders do ever night, Mr. Scherer wanted to do that for the Gartners. He called up the Islanders to make the arrangements. At that point, the story got all the more interesting and more touching in the process.

"After I made the request, they asked me why I wanted to do this for Rob. I explained to them the whole story, and upon the conclusion of that they told me that I was going to the game for free also as an honor to Chris."

For as much flak as this organization has gotten recently, listening to Mr. Scherer explain this to me on the other end of the phone left me speechless and with tears in my eyes. If you want to talk about a classy move, this is one. I felt that I wanted to write something about this because of my connection to Chris and his family, not to mention the fact that stories like this don't get heard very often.

The Islanders proceeded to offer Mr. Scherer tickets at a discounted rate for a group. There are a number of people involved with events in the memory of Chris, so naturally he took to Facebook and e-mail to let it be known.

"We have 100 people going to the game. I think it's fantastic, what the Islanders are doing." Mr. Scherer said.

It certianly is. I will be in the press box for this one tonight, but my parents will be with the Cpl. Chris Scherer group.

There are teams all over the league that probably have stories similar to this one, and it's a shame they don't get advertised more often. Who knows how many times this has happened in past Isles games. It certainly is a really touching back story though.

Meanwhile, the Islanders prepare to face the red hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins tonight, a day after dealing away James Wisniewski and two days after getting destroyed by the Rangers.

Chris was always known as a comedian, and would lighten the mood when things got tough. I feel it's fitting to close with the line he would always use: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

Yep. We certainly could use one tonight.

Semper Fi, Chris and Rob and welcome home. I hope the Islanders can pull one out for these two heroes tonight.

For more information about Chris and the annual memorial walk around East Northport, please be sure to visit the Corporal Christopher G. Scherer website.


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