Nikki Carlson Havre Daily News email@example.com
Red, white and blue waved proudly above a military camp in Iraq recently in honor of a group of grapplers the Havre High School Blue Pony wrestling team. In February, the HHS wrestling team was crowned back-to-back state champions. In commemoration of the Blue Ponies' victory, U.S. Marine Capt. James Compton dedicated an American flag that flew over the Headquarters of Regimental Combat Team 1 at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, on Feb. 11 during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the War on Terrorism. The framed flag and a serialized certificate were presented to the wrestlers Wednesday afternoon on behalf of Compton by Havre Mayor Bob Rice. "As a retired sailor and dedicated public servant, you have tirelessly devoted yourself to our town and to honoring its veterans and active-duty soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines," Compton said of Rice in a release. "I can think of no one more fitting to present this flag to the young men who have brought Havre home yet another championship." Rice served in the U.S. Navy for three decades and went to high school with Compton's father, John. "I'm honored. Whenever anybody in the military thinks of me, I'm deeply touched," Rice said. "It brings back fond memories." Rice read letters from Compton to the high school wrestlers at HHS. Compton, who is serving on his third deployment to Iraq, is a Havre native and a former HHS wrestler. "In honor of your tremendous effort, dedication and commitment culminating in your decisive victory in the 2008 State Wrestling Championship, I have asked Mayor Rice to present this American flag flown in your honor," Compton said in a release. "As a native of Havre, 1995 graduate of Havre High and a one-time member of the wrestling team, I'm extremely proud of you and your achievement. "While I never reached the penultimate achievement of being a champion in my short and unremarkable wrestling career, I did learn numerous valuable lessons on the mat and from Coach (Jerry) Vandersloot that guide me to this very day," he added. HHS junior wrestler Chris Recio said he was honored his team was recognized overseas. "I think it's pretty good to be recognized out of our town," Recio said. "It was a good boost for our team on our good achievement." HHS head wrestling coach Scott Filius said the certificate and flag will be displayed at the MAT Corner. "It's a very nice honor. It's nice to know that people who have graduated are still interested and it's an honor to get a flag," Filius said. The certificate was signed by U.S. Marine Sgt. Major D.W. Gallagher and Col. Lewis Craparotta of the RCT 1. "One day at practice in 1992, Coach (Ralph) Jimison put a sign up above the room that read 'Wrestlers the Marines of Havre High Athletics,'" Compton said in a release. "Cherish your victory, be always faithful to your teammates and never forget the training that forged your success. "I challenge each member of the team to apply the same dedication that you so magnificently demonstrated in Billings to all that you do," wrote Compton.