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Missouri National Guard supports Special Olympics

Col. Andrew Halter, of the 139th Airlift Wing in St. Joseph, congratulates athletes with the Special Olympics as they prepare to take the court. Missouri National Guardsmen, along with other uniformed law enforcement and public safety officers, attended the opening ceremonies for a recent basketball tournament at Missouri Western State University. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin)

Col. Andrew Halter, of the 139th Airlift Wing in St. Joseph, congratulates athletes with the Special Olympics as they prepare to take the court. Missouri National Guardsmen, along with other uniformed law enforcement and public safety officers, attended the opening ceremonies for a recent basketball tournament at Missouri Western State University. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin)

Sgt. Michael Taylor (left) and Sgt. Richard Rodrick (right), of the 35th Infantry Division in St. Joseph, congratulates athletes with the Special Olympics as they prepare to take the court. Missouri National Guardsmen, along with other uniformed law enforcement and public safety officers, attended the opening ceremonies for a recent basketball tournament at Missouri Western State University. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin)

Sgt. Michael Taylor (left) and Sgt. Richard Rodrick (right), of the 35th Infantry Division in St. Joseph, congratulates athletes with the Special Olympics as they prepare to take the court. Missouri National Guardsmen, along with other uniformed law enforcement and public safety officers, attended the opening ceremonies for a recent basketball tournament at Missouri Western State University. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin)

Rita Ketchum (left) and Mysti Lucas (right) brought in the Special Olympics torch during the opening ceremonies of the basketball tournament.  Missouri National Guardsmen, along with other uniformed law enforcement and public safety officers lined the court for the presentation. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin)

Rita Ketchum (left) and Mysti Lucas (right) brought in the Special Olympics torch during the opening ceremonies of the basketball tournament. Missouri National Guardsmen, along with other uniformed law enforcement and public safety officers lined the court for the presentation. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Military service members, along with other uniformed law enforcement and public safety officers, recently came out to support the Special Olympics at Missouri Western State University. Over 200 athletes and 100 volunteers participated in a day of basketball to qualify athletes for district and state competitions.

During the opening ceremonies on Jan. 29, area Missouri National Guardsmen, both Air and Army, lined the hardwood as a place of honor facing the athletes while the Special Olympics torch made its way into the arena.

Katie Hrenchir, associate area director for the Special Olympics Missouri northwest area, was excited to have such great support from the National Guard for her athletes.

"They love anybody in uniform," said Hrenchir. "The athletes eat this up."

Hrenchir explained how the uniformed heroes are like "rock stars" in the eyes of the athletes.

"To the athletes, this means the world," said Hrenchir. "A lot of them have no support system. The people coming out to the games, they are their family for the day. But the people in uniform will get more back from the day than they give."

For Col. Andrew Halter, of the 139th Airlift Wing in St. Joseph, Hrenchir's statement holds true.

"It was an absolute honor," said Halter. "There's a lot of special people here today and I think they truly enjoyed having us here today. That's what we are, we're public servants and we're here for the community. It's a great opportunity for these great young people to get out and play."

Sgt. Michael Taylor, of the 35th Infantry Division in St. Joseph, knew going into the event that it was going to be a special morning. Taylor has participated in other Special Olympics events while attending MWSU, but he says this is the best one he's been a part of to date.

"It's really fun to come out and support the guys and girls that do the Special Olympics because not everybody recognizes them on a daily basis and it's just nice to come out and support them," said Taylor. "Speaking on behalf of all of us, it made us all feel really, really cool."

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.

For more information about this release, please contact Jennifer Archdekin at 816-262-2893 or e-mail at jarchdekin@gmail.com.