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Gold Star Football Games Honor and Educate

Todd DePastino

Friday night High School football games are not just customary in Western Pennsylvania. They are nearly sacred community rites. Dana Tabay has managed to deepen the meaning of these games by shining the field lights on fallen service members. In so doing, students get an education. And Gold Star Families get to share a bit of their grief and help keep their loved ones’ legacies alive.

Gold Star Families Football Schedule

Friday night High School football games are not just customary in Western Pennsylvania. They are nearly sacred community rites. Dana Tabay has managed to deepen the meaning of these games by shining the field lights on fallen service members. In so doing, students get an education. And Gold Star Families get to share a bit of their grief and help keep their loved ones’ legacies alive.

Here’s how it works: Ten players on each team change their names on the backs of their jerseys to those of fallen service members. Before the game, each player learns about their adopted namesake, meets their family members, and hears their story. It’s an eye-opening encounter for the football players and an occasion of healing and remembrance for the Gold Star Families.

I’ve been to a Gold Star Football meet-and-greet events and have talked to high school students about their assigned service members. I’m stunned by the seriousness of the players and sincerity of their efforts to learn just a little about men and women who died in service.

Gold Star Football is the brainchild of Dana Tabay, who started the program in 2018 to honor her brother, Robert Gilberston, a 1999 Avonworth High School graduate who took his own life in 2007 while actively serving in the Navy.

The Western PA Gold Star Game schedule includes 8 games this year. One high school hosts the game each week for seven weeks—14 teams in all participating. This year, for the first time, the season concludes with a Gold Star college game, Geneva vs. Westminster at Reeves Field in Beaver Falls on November 12. In all, 160 fallen service members from World War II to the present will be honored.

You can find the Gold Start Football 2022 schedule and learn more on the program’s Facebook page.

And you can support Dana’s ongoing efforts at her Go-Fund-Me page.

Wouldn’t it be great for other communities around the country to pick up on what Dana has created and deepen the public’s connection to our veterans, military families, and the Gold Star parents, spouses, children, and siblings who grieve, out of the spotlight, all around us.

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