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Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) will honor six American heroes at the annual Military Appreciation Night football game to be held on Sept. 29, 2018. Joe Merchant, Bob Staples, Jess Robinson, Robert Hopper, Brandon Oakley, and Glen Pitts have made incredible sacrifices in defense of the United States of America, and NEO would like to invite the community as we honor them during halftime of the game.

Joe Merchant served in the Navy from 1963 to 1969 in both active and reserve capacities. Merchant ran the machine shop on the USS LaSalle, the flag ship for the 6th fleet. In 1965, the LaSalle was the flagship for the Atlantic Amphibious Fleet Force under Admiral John McCain Jr. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Following his military service, Merchant worked for Oklahoma Tire Supply and Oklahoma Natural Gas. He is now retired and volunteers with the Miami DAV Office.

Bob Staples joined the Marine Corps in 1954, when he was 19. He served in infantry, artillery, and amphibious vehicle capacities before being selected for the Navy Educational Science Program. In the program, he earned a Bachelor’s of Electrical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma and reported to officer training school. During his career, he also earned a Master’s in Electrical Engineering and was the Marine Officer Instructor at the OU NROTC Unit. Staples retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1981 and currently serves as the Vice Chair of Veteran’s Corner Inc. in Norman, Okla. He and his wife of more than sixty years, Cherie, have five children and five grandchildren.

Jess Robinson joined the Arkansas National Guard in 1948. During his service, he was mobilized by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus to prevent school integration during the infamous “Little Rock Nine” incident. While travelling from Fort Smith to Camp Robinson, President Dwight Eisenhower amended the orders and federalized the Arkansas National Guard in order to aid in school integration at Central High School. Robinson earned the rank of E-5 Sergeant during his tenure. Dr. Robert Hopper served in the Army from 1968 to 1971. He was a rifleman in Vietnam and carried out search and destroy missions along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. During his service, he attained the rank of E-5 Sergeant and earned the Bronze Star Medal. After his discharge,

Hopper earned his medical degree and practices in Northeast Oklahoma and serves as the co-medical director for the Wyandotte Nation. He is an active member of VFW Post 8380, where he promotes access to medical care for Veterans.

Brandon Oakley served six years in the Army and completed combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his service, he received the Army Commendation Medal and a Purple Heart. Oakley continues to battle stage 4 melanoma. He and his wife Mackenzie have two children, Ryder and Blake.

Glenn Pitts served on the USS Makin Island as an Amphib (now known as the Navy SEALs) during World War II. With the mission to protect convoys and clear beaches and bays in the Pacific, Pitts was tasked with diving under enemy fire to disconnect and detonate mines. Often under heavy fire from Japanese forces, the USS Makin Island sustained little damage. Following the conclusion of the War, Pitts again voyaged on the ship to return POWs to the United States. Pitts has served on the American Legion Post No. 147’s military funeral detail and continues to volunteer with the Post’s U.S. Military Museum.

Prior to the game, NEO will host a tailgate dinner at 4:30 p.m. outside of Red Robertson Stadium. Cost of attendance is $7 for non-students, and tailgaters will receive hamburgers and toppings along with a drink and dessert. The Military Appreciation Game against Navarro College will kick off at 6 p.m. Tickets will be available at the gate for $5 for general admission and $10 for reserved seating. Active and retired military personnel will receive free admission to the game with ID. For more information on Military Appreciation Night or NEO Golden Norse Football, contact Nancy Roberts at Nancy.Roberts@neo.edu.

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