Jersey being retired for former Champion Little Flashes member

CHAMPION — For the first time in its history, the Champion Little Flashes football league retired a jersey.

Jersey number 43, which was worn by Lance Cpl. Ryan Robert Smith, was officially retired during a ceremony at the team’s playing fields.

Ryan, who was in the Marine Corps, died in 2014 a few months after returning from Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

An ”Honor and Remember” flag was presented to his father, Jim Smith.

Mike Wilson of the Champion Little Flashes said, “That jersey will never be used again. This event remembers Ryan for his service and sacrifice for his country.”

Wilson said the Honor and Remember flag is a national symbol to recognize the service of fallen military personnel and are presented to the families in memory of a loved one lost who has served his or her country. He said the red on the flag represents the blood spilled by the brave men and women who lost their lives.

“There is no greater sacrifice then to give one’s life for their country,” Wilson said.

Melissa Wise of Survivor Outreach Services and Thomas Mitchell, Ohio chapter director of Honor and Remember, attended the ceremony to present a plaque and the flag.

Ryan was a 2012 Champion High School graduate who joined the Marine Corps in July 2012 and was deployed to Afghanistan from September to December 2013. He was in the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine regiment, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune. His awards include Combat Action Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the National Defense Medal and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.

He died at age 21 on Sept. 4, 2014. He had lived in Richlands, N.C.

Besides football, Ryan also participated in track.

Ryan also left his mother, Christina M. Menichini of Champion; his wife, Kimberly Smith of Richlands, N.C.; and three brothers and two sisters.