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Bethel Park And West Allegheny Football Teams Honors Western Pennsylvania Gold Star Families

BETHEL PARK (KDKA) -- Two Pittsburgh-area high school football teams joined forces on the field to support the families of those who fought for our freedom.

John and Deborah Gilkey have vivid memories of a fateful night in December 2010.

"About 11:30 in the evening, got a knock on the door. We didn't have a porch light at the time. You could see the metals glistening in the street light, and my heart went down to my feet," John Gilkey said.

It was the Marines delivering the news that their son, Justin, had been killed in Afghanistan.

"He found a device, defused that device, but there was a secondary device he stepped on and that took his life," John Gilkey said.

Gold star game
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

During Friday's game between Bethel Park and West Allegheny at Black Hawks Stadium, the Gilkeys were one of 20 families with similar stories of loss and sacrifice being honored. Bethel Park has held its annual Gold Star Game for three years.

"We had 17 students last year that went into the military service. And just throughout Bethel Park, so many that have served our country," Bethel Park High School Principal Joseph Villani said.

There was a motorcade, dinner and pre-game ceremony on the field. Ten players from each team represented 10 local heroes from numerous military branches.

When a big play was made, instead of the name of a player, the name of a soldier was announced over the speakers.

"If I'm ever tired, I'm just gonna think of this and that's just gonna give me so much more energy to keep pushing forward," West Allegheny offensive and defensive lineman Nathan Toner said.

"Sitting down with his friends, the bond that they had reminds me of my best friends at our high school. So it's just cool to see," Bethel Park quarterback Max Blanc said.

"As long as there are Gold Star families and there's these memory things going on and these events taking place, our son will never be forgotten and that's what it's about to me," John Gilkey said.

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