WAYNE, N.J. -- The championship game between Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley high schools may be over, but law enforcement officers and other public servants in town continued cheering this week.
As the teams emerged from the MetLife tunnel on Sunday, Wayne Valley Co-Captain Jake Pluta carried an American flag that was flown in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan and at Ground Zero.
It was Pluta who at the beginning of this season carried a "Thin Blue Line" flag onto the field against Lakeland High School as a tribute to law enforcement officers and other first responders.
On Sunday, the senior toted the Stars and Stripes, given to him by Wayne Police Officer Chris Carbone, who is a major in the U.S. Army Reserves.
The flag "carries a tremendous amount of history," Wayne Police Capt. Laurence Martin said Wednesday.
"The flag was flown in the war zones of Iraq 2008, at Ground Zero in New York City 2011, Afghanistan 2011," Martin said, "and now the same American Flag is carried and displayed proudly at MetLife stadium.
"We are honored to have this young man carry this symbol of our freedom onto the field of play."
The captain continued: "This display of patriotism is the epitome of the courage displayed by so many dedicated people in our township each and every day, from the Wayne Police to the volunteer Memorial first aid squad, to the volunteer Fire Department to the members of the Public Works Department to the civilian members of the municipal township administration, all working together toward providing a safer environment to live and raise families, all these individual functions add up to patriotism.
"This honoring of our flag and our country is usually appreciated during our yearly celebrations honoring our veterans," Martin said. "Their sacrifice and the sacrifice of so many others is the reason we are free to express our individuality.
"To all the athletes of both teams who played in this championship game, to the cheerleaders of both teams, families and fans of both teams, thank you for your patriotism, and let's all continue to work toward a better future for our children’s sake."