Despite it being a rivalry night in Fort Mill, the Fort Mill High wrestling team came together with their rivals Nation Ford to remember a fallen soldier and police officer.
At Fort Mill High, head wrestling coach Chris Brock led the charge to honor 2011 Fort Mill graduate Javion “Jay” Sullivan, who died in Iraq earlier this month while fighting ISIS. The 24-year-old former wrestler at Fort Mill, along with York County Sheriff’s Officer Det. Mike Doty, were honored before the match between Nation Ford and Fort Mill with a remembrance ceremony and the playing of “Taps.”
“Anytime we lose a student, we should pay tribute to them,” Brock said. “These kids gave me so much. I felt obligated to set an example for the kids and the community.”
Fort Mill principal Dee Christopher said it was Brock’s idea to lead the remembrances of Sullivan and Doty, who also was killed in the line of duty earlier this month, when responding to a domestic disturbance call in York.
“I am proud of Coach Brock for honoring not just alumni, but a soldier,” Christopher said. “I am proud we can do this. We need to do more of honoring our military, police and first responders.”
At the same time, over at Nation Ford High School, Sullivan and Doty were both honored with a moment of silence before visiting Fort Mill tipped off with its crosstown rival in an important region boys’ basketball game. Students faculty and staff at Nation Ford wore blue and black at school at school that day. At the game, all NaFo students were encouraged to wear black and FMHS students blue to show unity and respect for both men who gave their loves in service.
While Sullivan was one of many wrestlers to come through the Fort Mill wrestling program, Brock said he always stood out to him.
“He quickly became respected and a part of the team,” Brock said. “He was a gentle giant and loved to be a part of the team.”
Brock said he wasn’t surprised when he heard that Sullivan had joined the military to be a part of a bigger team. The bond Brock shared with Sullivan was special to him as well. A picture of the two of them sits in Sullivan’s room at his childhood home, according to his mother Cynthia Sullivan, as she and family members were on hand to honor her son.
“It makes me very proud,” she said.
“It fills my heart with gladness to know they cared enough to do this for him. Jay loved the military. He wanted to serve his country and see his country come together. No matter what state this country is in, we are still the United States of America. We are a people that come together, even if it is for a moment. We are all in this together. He wasn’t just our soldier; he was this country’s soldier. I can’t think this community any more for what it has done.”
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @MacBanksFM