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NEWS | Dec. 11, 2023

Chicago Blackhawks NHL team honor Army Reserve Soldier

By Capt. Michael Ariola 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command

National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks honored U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Maribel Meraz, assigned to the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, during a home game versus the St. Louis Blues at the United Center, December 9, 2023.

Meraz received the honor before the National Anthem and again during the second period of the game, recognizing her 16 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Meraz, a Chicago native, who grew up in in the communities of Hermosa and Humboldt Park, was given a standing ovation from thousands of spectators during her recognition at the stadium.

“It was my first Blackhawk game! To hear Blackhawk fans cheer and clap was a tremendous experience!” exclaimed Meraz.

She enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve at the age of 17 in January 2008. She then completed Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, becoming qualified as a Human Resources Specialist.

In 2011, Meraz served on a 10-month deployment with the 847th Postal Detachment, to Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, 20 miles south of Baghdad in support of Operation New Dawn. Meraz’ responsibilities included postal operations and managing civilian contractors working with them.

She deployed again in 2013 to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Meraz was assigned to the Joint Military Mail Terminal, where she inspected suspicious packages and searched for contraband. Shortly after, she was reassigned to Qatar, to assist with postal activities at Al-Udeid Air Base and As Sayliyah Army Base.

Following the recognition, Meraz further reflected on her service to the Nation.

“Being a Soldier in the Army Reserve has allowed me to travel to different states and countries. I have had the opportunity to meet all kinds of people. When I was deployed to Iraq, the Ugandan Army was also there. When I would go into the chow hall, they would teach me phrases in Swahili,” said Meraz. “Serving in the Army Reserve has allowed me to grow as a person and develop many skills, most of all patience.”

Meraz’ awards include two Army Commendation Medals, and the Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign star, among other awards throughout her years of service.

The Chicago Blackhawks additionally recognized U.S. Army retired Sgt. Maj. Laurence “Larry” Kagan from Park Ridge, Illinois.

Kagan, a Veteran of Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom served from 1981-2010.

“Tonight, I was the lucky one who represented all the men and women Veterans who have served our great country. They are the real heroes,” said Kagan.