National Guard continues volunteer tradition at SOMI Summer Games

Since the start of the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games more than 45 years ago, a special bond continues to grow between athletes and members of the Michigan National Guard.

The Michigan National Guard sends volunteers to help control traffic, present medals and interact with athletes and families. Members were on the field for Friday night’s closing ceremony, trading autographs and dancing with SOMI olympians.

Silver medal winning swimmer Matthew Emert got a selfie with many of the volunteer members after his events on Saturday. 

“I love hanging out with them,” Emert said. “I like their Camouflage uniforms.”

First Class Aaron Reynolds volunteered in his fourth SOMI Summer Games this weekend. He said he plans on volunteering for the rest of his life.

“The athletes make this special,” Reynolds said. “Just see them smiling when we’re with them. When they see us in uniform their faces light up. They want pictures (and) autographs. This is something that makes me think ‘wow, this is why I put on the uniform.’”

If a competition came between Reynolds and a SOMI athlete, Reynolds is certain he would end up on the losing side. His theory was proven right at the closing ceremony when National Guard members fell short in a push-up contest during the victory dance at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

“These guys are amazing," he said. "They could wipe the floor with any one of us. They’re so agile and happy all the time.”

Patrick Devries, a parent of an athlete competing this weekend, saw his four year-old daughter dancing with members monitoring traffic in front of McGuirk Arena and the Student Activities Center.

“My dad is an army veteran. (He) served during Vietnam," Devries said. “I think this is awesome.”