Bethel volleyball players stand with members of the National Guard during a game held at Indiana University South Bend to honor our troops.

Bethel volleyball players stand with members of the National Guard during a game held at Indiana University South Bend to honor our troops.

On Wednesday, Sept. 3, the Bethel Pilots and Indiana University South Bend Titans put competitiveness aside – for a good cause. The women’s volleyball teams faced off in a “Tribute to the Troops” game, in partnership with the National Guard, to support our men and women in the armed forces.

Veterans and current service members, who were admitted to the game free of charge, were honored between the second and third set of the volleyball match. The National Guard even provided a full-court-sized flag and information display for the event.

Additionally, a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales, combined with donations taken at the door, benefited the nonprofit organization Operation Quiet Comfort, which provides “go bags” to soldiers injured in the line of duty that are med-evacuated from active war zones.

Shipped out of Plymouth, Ind., by an all-volunteer staff, these bags are equipped with hygiene and grooming products, clothing and entertainment. They help bridge the gap between the time soldiers arrive for medical care and the time their belongings arrive – which can take weeks, if they arrive at all.

“Operation Quiet Comfort is a nationwide organization that depends solely on donations to keep packages shipping, with postage costs alone being over $1,000 each month,” says board member Jan Houin.

The idea for a tribute to the troops game has been a dream of Bethel Head Volleyball Coach Kevin Ulmer’s since he began working at the college three years ago. With family military ties and Bethel volleyball’s commitment to community service, he saw a tribute game as a way to merge both passions.

“My grandfather served in the Navy in WWII, so I was excited to honor him and all service men and women that have been willing to pay the ultimate price in supporting and protecting the United States of America,” Ulmer says.

Both Ulmer and IU South Bend Head Volleyball Coach Jamie Ashmore-Pott agree that this is something they can come together to support.

“It’s exciting not only because it’s two universities in the same community working together for a great cause, but also because I have many family members who have served and are serving our country,” Ashmore-Pott says.

Sgt. James Bartlett with the National Guard says events like these help show local service members just how much the community supports them. Especially for veterans, this support is essential in helping them integrate back into civilian life after serving.

“This tribute shows that the schools and the community are supportive of our local service members, and that they care enough to shows us that,” Bartlette says. “So to a service member, it’s amazing that people appreciate our devotion and the sacrifices we have made.”

This year, the game was hosted by IU South Bend at the Student Activities Center. The hope is that this would become an annual rotating event, hosted next year by Bethel College.

If you missed the game but would like to support our troops through Operation Quiet Comfort, visit