For Those Who Have Served, We Salute You

Updated: November 11, 2013
Justin Wilson looking handsome as ever in his uniform.

Every year the Columbus Blue Jackets organization does a great job of recognizing Veterans. They auction off game worn camo jerseys to benefit the USO, players actively donate their time and money to Veterans, and fans give up their tickets to the game just so a Veteran can enjoy a night out. All of this inspired me to find Jackets fans who are Veterans and interview them. All of the Veterans blew me away with what they had to say. I hope you enjoy.

 Ohio State University student and local restaurant manager, Tracie Hart, spent 12 years in the armed services as an E-5P US Army Aviation,H-60 Blackhawk Crew chief. Needing direction in her life Tracie enlisted in the Army in 1997.“My whole family has been military, I was a wild child. I needed something to focus my energy on,” said Tracie. For those contemplating entering the military Tracie offers this bit of advice, “Go in with the right mind set. Make sure that this is a career or block of time in your life, that this is what you want/feel you need.”

Having lived a few different parts of the country Tracie found it hard to come by scores or information for the Blue Jackets. Tracie didn’t let that hold her back from staying a fan. She has been there for all the ups and downs so it’s only perfect that her favorite Jackets moment is a bittersweet one. As we all know, last season’s finale was a roller coaster. The boys battled so hard for a win only to miss the playoffs by one game.”Too bad it ended the way it did afterwards. Probably the most exciting moment for me, to date,”said Tracie. Not only was the game a roller coaster but it was the last time she’d see her favorite player, Vinnie Prospal, on the ice. 



Justin Wilson looking handsome as ever in his uniform.

Justin Wilson looking handsome as ever in his uniform.


I had the pleasure of meeting one of Brandon Dubinsky’s biggest fans at this year’s Hockey Fights Cancer game.  Justin Wilson is a newer Jackets fan. Three years ago after Justin’s deployment his friend Alex took him to a Cyclones game and he’s been hooked on hockey ever since. In those three years that Justin has been a fan he had never been to a Jackets game. When I had an extra ticket to the Hockey Fights Cancer game Justin jumped at the chance to go. Little did I know I was making his dream come true and that night became his favorite CBJ moment. Justin is a die hard fan and great to sit with at games. He’s extremely passionate about the Jackets. When he told me he spent four years as a Corporal in the Marine Corps it explained everything. When asked why he entered the Marine Corps Justin explained, “It’s something I had always wanted to do since as long as I can remember. I wanted the adventures. I wanted to make my parents proud, have a way to pay for college, and overall, I wanted the challenge. Making it through Marine Corps boot camp makes you feel like you can do ANYTHING.” As you can see Justin is a determined individual. He doesn’t just talk the talk he walks the walk. Justin entered the Marine Corps as a Combat Engineer and left as a squad leader. He’s also attending the University of Cincinnati for Aviation Technology.  

When I asked Justin for what advice he would give to those looking to join the armed forces my jaw dropped. His answer is so wise and can be applied to every day life.

You won’t regret it. It will be hard at times, but you are doing something great. I will never forget shortly after “becoming a Marine” and our company attended a San Diego Padres game for “Marine Week”. While standing in formation, a little girl and her father walked past us, and the little girl asked her father, “who are all these people, Daddy?” He told her, “Those are the men that keep you and me safe.” That and the amount of applause we received while walking in the stadium made me realize how great of a thing I was doing. All the blood, sweat in tears are worth it. When times do get hard, just take it one day at a time. Live meal to meal and you can get through anything.



Note how John Evans knows the proper protocol for being around the Stanley Cup. Don't touch it unless you won it.

Note how John Evans knows the proper protocol for being around the Stanley Cup. Don’t touch it unless you won it.

John Evans is a die hard Red Wings fan who flirts with the Blue Jackets on the side. Unfortunately, one of John’s favorite Jackets moments is when he threw an Octopus onto the ice. Don’t worry Jackets fans I’ve already discussed with him the severity of his actions. It’s clear that this fan loves all things Michigan because his two favorites on the Jackets are the Controlled Chaos duo of Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski.

As tempting as it is to say Zherdev or Filatov or some other sarcastic
answer, it has to be Jack Johnson. I’m usually torn between him and
Wiznewski because they’re so great with fans on twitter and veteran’s
support. But after that Boston game where he put the puck in his own
net and he STILL showed up to sign autographs and face the music even
though no reasonable person on earth would have blamed him if he chose
not to, to me that’s leadership. Commitment. Respectable. Whatever you
want to call it, JJ is the man.

After high school, John felt like college wasn’t the place for him. For “3 years 8 months 16 days. Not that people keep track or anything” John spent his days as a Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (E-4) for the Navy. “I provided
medical work in the field to Marines and assisted Doctors and Nurses at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, VA,” he explained. Originally John wanted to make this a career move but after one tour thought that was enough. He is now working in “a Pharmaceutical lab in Columbus that may or may not sponsored the Blue Jackets.”

John’s advice for those wanting to join the armed forces brings up some good points about thinking your decision through.

I feel like some people join with unrealistic expectations and the
idea that they’ll be well looked after in the service and after they
leave. Don’t get me wrong, the military has done some great things for
me, like pay for a bachelor’s degree, but I feel like if I understood
what it was like before going in, how everything in your life is a
secondary priority and what’s best for defending the country always
comes first, I think I would have appreciated my time in more.

John also offers a different view of Military Appreciation for Veterans on Octopusthrower.


Former US Marine Corps Correctional Office TJ Nocar

Former US Marine Corps Correctional Office TJ Nocar

 Vice President of Tilly Hockey , TJ Nocar, spent four years in the Marine Corps as a Correctional Officer. ” I joined the Marines because I have various family members who served, including my dad, who was in the Army. I wanted a challenge and to do something with my life that was bigger than myself,” he said. This statement shines true even after the Marines. For the month of November, 10% of Tilly Hockey sales will be donated to prostate cancer research. He also offers some pretty solid advice for those looking to enter the military, “If you are thinking about joining, think it through a few times and make sure you’re ready for the commitment. Joining the military is a commitment to the armed services, the people of the United States and to your fellow brothers and sisters serving. Also, be sure to do your research to figure out what branch and what job is best suited for you.”

On the hockey side of things, TJ has been a fan of the Jackets since 2000. “My love for hockey started with the Flyers, but when we got our own team, I knew I would be a Jacket for life,” said TJ. Players like Ron Tugnutt, Serge Aubin, Brandon Dubinsky, and Dalton Prout are what help solidify his fandom. TJ’s favorite Jackets moment so happened to take place on his birthday in 2001 when the Jackets tied the Isles 3-3. Be sure to stop by the Jacket Backers table, near section 116, and share favorite Jackets moments with TJ.


Jame Ooten while stationed in Germany

Jame Ooten while stationed in Germany

On September 11th, 2001 James Ooten enlisted after work. ” I was working in a factory downtown Columbus when my supervisor called everyone into the break room. The TV was on as we all looked as our freedom was being attacked,” he reminisced. James spent 3 years in active duty and by the end of his tour became a Corporal. ” I was stationed in Freidberg Germany. I was a 19K ,which is a crew member of the m1a1 Abrams battle tank. In May 2003, my unit Bravo company 2-37 with 1st AD deployed to Baghdad, Iraq.” After getting home from Germany in 2004, James became a Jackets fan. His favorites are Jody Shelley and James Wisniewski. Like most fans, James’ favorite Jackets moment was last seasons finale, “Nationwide was unbelievable. The fan support was awesome!” Yes James, yes it was, and I’m glad you got to experience it.

His best advice for those wanting to join the Armed Services, “pick a MOS that can prepare you best for the civilian world or stay in long enough to retire.”


Former Marine Corpsman Matt Garrett

Former Marine Corpsman Matt Garrett


Former Marine Corpsman, Matt Garrett, has been a Jackets fan since the day it was announced Columbus would have a NHL team. “I was extremely proud that my city was awarded a professional team,” he said. I can only imagine how hard it must be to follow your favorite team when you are doing two tours in Iraq. One of those tours involved the invasion of 2003. Corpsman have to be tough and they have to be passionate about what they do. They literally put their lives on the line so they can save the lives of those who are on the front line. So it’s only fitting that Matt’s favorite player is Derek Dorsett. “I loved his passion for the game, and intensity,” explained Matt. Luckily Matt was around during the 2009 play-off push because that ended up being his favorite Jackets moment. “It’s tough to single out a specific moment. From February to April there was a buzz in the city about the Jackets,” Matt said, ” You could feel the electricity in the air”

Matt also offers some rather wise advice for those looking to join the armed forces. “Find the right job, and the right branch for you.  Take your time and explore all your options. Have a parent and/or former military member help counsel you and make sure you have a good recruiter you trust to help along”

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the service you have done. I’m proud to have you a part of the Blue Jackets community.



One Comment

  1. Kelly Donley Shircliff

    November 11, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Your grandfathers would be proud!!

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