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Highland Hero Returns Home

There are “heroes” and there are “Heroes”. The lower case version includes those that we watch sink big three-pointers, hit homers and power in to the endzone. The capitalized kind has a capital letter for a reason. Those are the people who put everything on the line and dedicate their lives to a higher cause. While the “hero” version of homecoming includes coming back to their old school for a football game and to meet some friends from high school, the “Hero’s” home coming means a whole lot more, not only for him, but for family, friends and our country. Highland’s Dan Spretnjak is a Hero.

The former Trojan football player and member of the United State Army returned home this week following a year serving our country in Afghanistan. Thursday night at Markley Park in his hometown, a large contingent of family, friends and well-wishers were on hand to welcome him back and thank him for his service. With a flag lined path leading his police escort into the park, Spretnjak was swarmed with Little Leaguers and Boy Scouts wanting to shake his hand and meet him upon his arrival.

Dan Vasser, president of Highland Little League, emceed a short ceremony in which Spretnjak’s former football coach Eric Miller spoke. ”I am proud to say that I know Danny Spretnjak,” Miller told the crowd. “It’s people like him, doing what they are doing, that make our country great.”

After receiving gifts on behalf of his favorite teams, the Cubs and the Bears, Spretnjak addressed the crowd himself, thanking the people of Highland for their support. “We got lots of letters and care packages from ‘Operation SOS’,” Spretnjak said. “They sent us lots of stuff that helped make being overseas a little more like home.”

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But there is no place that can replace home – a fact that Spretnjak will never forget. “A lot of people I know and grew up with take being home for granted. I will never do that. I will always appreciate being home and being in Highland”

Spretnjak, who also threw out the first pitch of the Little League game that followed the ceremony, will remain in Highland for approximately a month before leaving again. This time the destination won’t be nearly as far as the Middle East. He’ll be headed to Fort Bliss, Texas. Dan’s little brother Matt will also be joining the US military – as he was recently accepted into the Air Force Academy.

Just as Dan won’t take being home for granted, we should never take the Dan Spretnjak’s of this world for granted. Dan Spretnjak has served his country and he’s served it well. Most importantly, he’s returned home safely. That deserves at least a capital “H” along with our thanks.

Photos by Roland Lewis; Story by Nathan Laird

If you would like to share any updates regarding former Region athletes who are serving our country, please e-mail


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