By Megan Decker
VASSAR — Vassar High School officials have continued to make plans for the return of their hometown hero.
As reported last month, Vassar High School will not only celebrate its Homecoming against Unionville-Sebewaing on Oct. 5, but the coming home of Staff Sgt. Travis Mills.
Mills, a 2005 Vassar High School graduate, was injured and lost all four limbs on April 10 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while on foot patrol during his third tour in Afghanistan. Mills is now living with his wife, Kelsey, and infant daughter, Chloe, in an apartment on post near Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.
School officials have many changes in store for this year’s Homecoming celebration, dubbed Hometown Heroes to honor both Travis and the Vulcan varsity football squad.
The biggest change in store is the date change of the traditional parade. The homecoming parade will tentatively be held beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4. Travis, who will serve as the parade’s Grand Marshal, will ride with his family at the beginning of the parade behind the Color Guard from Pioneer Work & Learn and the high school marching band.
Also, new to this year’s parade, each class will decorate and march with a banner instead of the traditional class floats. Students from each class will earn points toward the Homecoming Spirit Award for wearing an assigned color. Freshmen will wear red, sophomores will wear white, juniors will sport blue and seniors will dress in orange and black, explained high school Principal Paul Wojno.
As the parade passes by, spectators will be asked to join in at the end and march to Central Elementary School where a bonfire will be held from approximately 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The community event will include performances by the Vassar cheerleaders and speeches by members of the football coaching staff and team as well as a possible speech from Mills, Wojno explained.
On Friday, Oct. 5, the school will host its regular student pep assembly with introduction of the Homecoming Court and crowning of the Homecoming King from 2:30 to 3:30 in the school gymnasium. Following the assembly, with a tentative start time of 4:30 p.m., the school will host a Block Party on Athletic Street. The event will include DJ music as well as hot dogs, chips, salads and beverages.
A pregame ceremony, honoring Travis, is tentatively scheduled from 6:30 to 7 p.m. During the ceremony, Travis will be introduced to the crowd as the honorary team captain where he will be on the field for the coin toss, Wojno said.
“It will be a chaotic, but fun day,” Wojno said. “It will be such an amazing learning experience for the students.
“This will be a homecoming like no other.”
Wojno also encourages businesses and homeowners to replace the weathered yellow ribbons around town with fresh, brightly colored ribbons for Travis’ arrival.
“The ribbons have served a purpose, but they are looking a bit weathered,” Wojno said. “It would be nice if people could make Oct. 3 a yellow ribbon day and make sure they are all replaced on homes and businesses.”
A complete and firm itinerary will be available following a planning meeting on Sept. 26.