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NEWS | Jan. 9, 2023

Local service members start new year with a military recognition from Chicago Blackhawks

By Staff Sgt. David Lietz 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command

The Chicago Blackhawks honored Staff Sgt. Justin Craggs, a mobilization non-commissioned officer assigned to the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, along with retired U.S. Air Force veteran Alex Parker before the start of a home game against the Arizona Coyotes, January 6, 2023.

The two service members stood on a red carpet, at center ice, next to professional singer Jim Cornelison who sang the National Anthem at Friday night’s game.

“It was incredible,” said Craggs, a U.S. Army Reserve Soldier with 15 years of service. “To be three feet away from Jim singing the National Anthem was amazing!”

Craggs joined the U.S. Army Reserve as a junior at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect, Illinois. His military occupational specialty is 88 uniform, a railway advisor.

“It’s provided me with great opportunities,” Craggs said. “I’ve seen parts of the country I would not have otherwise visited and worked with so many people from various backgrounds.”

His wife, Cara, was also excited to see her husband’s Army Reserve service celebrated by the Blackhawks.

“It’s very exciting. I think it’s a great opportunity for him. I think it’s awesome the Blackhawks celebrate their hometown heroes,” she said.

In addition to the Family members, Cornelison, was equally thrilled to stand next to service members when they are honored.

“I’ve met so many great guys and gals who come out there on the ice to get honored. It’s just really cool to be out there with people who aren’t used to being the center of attention. It’s great to have them out there,” Cornelison said.

For Parker, standing on the ice was something that he has wanted to do for a long time.

“This is a dream come true for me. I got to meet my favorite former Blackhawks player Troy Murray,” said Parker, who completed 20 years of active-duty service with the Air Force. “I’ve always wanted to do this since I was 15-years-old.”

The two service members were celebrated a second time during a break in the game. After sitting back down in his seat, Cragg’s brother, Brandon, reflected on the evening.

“This is incredible. It’s once in a lifetime for me. The fact that we were given this opportunity is a big deal. I think we should continue to honor the servicemembers. Especially the veterans. They don’t always get the recognition they deserve. They make big sacrifices, so we don’t have to,” Brandon said.

Craggs’ military awards include four Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals and the Combat Action Badge. He has served on two tours in Afghanistan. From 2011-2012 and 2015-2016.

The Blackhawks beat the Coyotes 2-0.