SIDNEY — It’s been a few weeks since the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall was in Sidney as part of the Field of Valor program sponsored by the Shelby County Historical Society. But for one group of football players, visiting the wall gave them the chance to pay respects to someone they never met — James L. Rush, whose name is on the wall.
Marion Elgin and Bradford high schools were poised to travel to Sidney on Sept. 5 to play each other at Sidney Memorial Stadium. Just days before the game, Athletic Director Jason Hix learned the replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall was going to be in Sidney.
Hix learned about the display from his brother, Chip Hix, who lives in Sidney with his wife, Eileen. Hix is a former history teacher and head football coach Derek Katris currently teaches history at the school.
“We’ve both been to the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., and agreed that visiting the replica in Sidney was an opportunity for our students that we couldn’t pass up,” said Hix.
Prior to visiting the wall, Hix and Katris were able to track down the name of an Elgin alumni who is on the wall — James Rush, a member of the Class of 1963.
“After a few phone calls we learned that Mr. Rush was a three-sport athlete at Elgin, and was a member of Elgin’s first football team in 1962,” said Hix. “We were able to get one of Mr. Rush’s teammates to come speak to the team before practice on Friday, Sept. 4. Stan Foos was the first quarterback at Elgin, and also served in Vietnam. On Friday, Sept. 4, he gave an incredible speech to our student-athletes and told them about Mr. Rush. He brought in his yearbook and showed our football players pictures of Mr. Rush and told them stories of the first ever football season at Elgin.”
Foos when contacted about his visit with the football team, said he was honored that the boys got to visit the wall.
“Jim was a good man,” said Foos, who lives in Marion. “I think he was the only one who was killed in Vietnam that was on the original football team.”
Foos said he attended LaRue High School, which had a football team. Rush attended Prospect High School, which didn’t have a team. Four school districts — LaRue, New Bloomington, Green Camp and Prospect — consolidated and Rush played on the first team from that consolidation in 1963.
“He was a guard and linebacker,” said Foos. “He only played one year of football since he was a senior. I was a junior on the team.
“He was a fun kid, a serious kid and was a lot of fun,” said Foos. “I would sit with John Birchem on the bus going to games and across the aisle would be Jim and his best buddy. John, who was a highway patrolman, died about a month after Jim did in Vietnam.”
Foos said he took a photo of Rush with him when he talked to the football team.
“I wanted them to put a face with the name on the wall,” said Foos. “I feel good that Jim’s not forgotten. I didn’t talk about my time over there very much. I was one of the lucky ones who got to come home.
“Jim was a good guy. He was strong and an excellent football player. It was an honor for me to go to school and talk to the boys about him.”
Foos said he was told after viewing Rush’s name on the wall, something special happened.
“I had heard the boys did a really neat thing at the wall where one of the boys led the others in prayer,” said Foos. “That was a class act.”
The team stopped at the wall prior to the football game on Sept. 5. One parent stopped at the wall after the game to look at it.
“On behalf of our students, coaches, and school administration we would like to thank all of those who helped bring the replica wall to Sidney, stopping and visiting the wall during our trip to Sidney H.S.was a very important and memorable experience for our student athletes,” said Hix and Katris. “We would like to express our appreciation and gratitude for all of our service men and women who have fought and sacrificed to keep us free.”
After seeing the wall, Case Swartz, a member of the football team, shared his thoughts and feelings.
“To us the wall is a symbol of what our nation has gone through in order to reach where we are today,” said Swartz. “That people were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to better their nation. Even during a time in American society when their efforts weren’t entirely supported.”
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