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Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) honored four American heroes at the annual Military Appreciation Night football game on Sept. 1. In addition to the recognition, the Oklahoma National Guard conducted a Black Hawk helicopter flyover during the National Anthem and freshman Gray Wellman performed “America the Beautiful” following a moment of silence for fallen service members.

Mr. Sean Graham served in the U.S. Navy from 1993 to 2013 and attained the rank of Petty Officer First Class as an Aviation Structural Mechanic. During his two decades of service, Petty Officer Graham was deployed six times. This included a tour in the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, where he earned the Order of Magellan certificate for completing a circumnavigation of the globe. He also deployed for 7 months in 2008 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom providing surveillance and early warning for troops operating on the ground.

Jeff Hurst joined the U.S. Navy in 1985 and served aboard the USS Ogden LPD-5, which was part of the Amphibious Battle Group. Hurst made three deployments on the Ogden before transferring to the USS Semmes DDG-18, a guided missile destroyer. Having traveled to over 25 countries during his service, Hurst retired in 1992 with the rank of Petty Office Second Class and has worked with the NEO Maintenance Department for 11 years.

Mr. Zach Lawson joined the U.S. Army in 2006 and was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2010. During his service, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Badge. Upon returning home, he earned his degree from NEO and currently works as a Network Administrator in the NEO IT Department.

Dr. Jeff Birdsong enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1982 after he received his Associate Degree in Music from NEO. Dr. Birdsong served as a musician at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii during his four years in the Marines. In 1986, he enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and served in the Signal Corps in Stillwater until 1991. Dr. Birdsong is the Department Chair for the School of Liberal Arts at NEO.

All of these individuals have made incredible sacrifices in defense of the United States of America, and NEO shared its appreciation of their service during the halftime of the NEO football game. “Honoring our veterans and active military personnel is a privilege for NEO Athletics and we sincerely appreciate the sacrifices that these men and women have made,” said Joe Renfro, NEO Athletic Director. “They put their lives on the line to protect us and our freedoms every day and they deserve to be recognized for their commitment.”

For more information on NEO Athletics, e-mail Lisa Severe at lsevere@neo.edu. (Photo from left: Interim President Dr. Mark Rasor, Charles Graham, Sean Graham, Jeff Hurst, Zach Lawson, Dr. Jeff Birdsong, Athletic Director Joe Renfro).

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