03/07/12 After nine years of service, the Marshall County 4-H Drill Team founder, Harry Eskridge, has announced his retirement. Eskridge said, “It’s been a good ride, but now it’s time to hang up the spurs.” Eskridge said he is experiencing some heath problems that will no longer allow him to continue.
The Drill Team was a military style equestrian team for members of the Marshall County 4-H program between the ages of nine and eighteen.
Above all else, Eskridge instilled a sense of patriotism and respect in the young people in the teams over the years. They rode in a number of parades each summer and performed drill routines at the Marshall County 4-H Fair each year to honor the armed forces.
The Drill Team is especially proud of donating the Flagpole at the Marshall County Fairgrounds Horse Arena, which has flown American flags donated by the armed forces that flew over Iraq and the White House.
Eskridge is especially proud of the teams’ invitation to the Indy 500 Festival Parade and the South Bend College Football Hall of Fame Parade. Other parades they participated in included the following: Nappanee Apple Fest Parade, Bremen Firefighters Festival Parade, and Lakeville 4th of July Parade, North Liberty 4th of July Parade, Bourbon Bicentennial Parade, Argos 4th of July Parade, Fulton County Round Barn Festival, Culver Lakefest 4th of July Parade, Marshall County Blueberry Festival Parade, Bremen Christmas Lighting Ceremony.
According to several members of the Drill Team Assistant’s staff, the parade that held the most meaning for the Drill Team was the Tyner Memorial Day Parade, which was first organized by Harry Eskridge in 2002. It has become a tradition in the town of Tyner when the flags of the Drill Team waved in the air as they make the three mile ride from the home of leader Eskridge on Plymouth-LaPorte Trail to the Tyner Cemetery. The parade and the Drill Team saluted the American Flag and honored all who have served their country while taps were played in the background. Eskridge had organized this parade for nine years to help prepare the Drill Team for parades they would be performing in later in the summer. Since the first year, the parade has grown from five units to over seventy entries in 2011. Special recognition was extended to the Plymouth American Legion led by Julian Keiser and Indiana State Police Department Chaplain Rose Woodke. Both have participated in the parade all nine years.
Eskridge said he and the entire Drill team would liked to extend their appreciation to the military members that participated in the fair performances each year, including the Plymouth VFW Post 1162, Plymouth American Legion Post 27, Knox VFW Post 748, North Judson American Legion Post 92, Plymouth Indiana National Guard. Eskridge also expressed his appreciation to Tom Flynn for the aerial fly-overs. The team would also like to thank the many guest speakers that participated in the performances, along with Jack and Dawn Roose, who sang the National Anthem at many events, Ashley Young, trumpet player, and the Culver Pipes and Drum Corp.
The team made it a priority to give back to the community by visiting nursing homes, sponsoring food drives, sending care packages to Iraq, building library window displays, and making monetary contributions to Riley’s Children’s Hospital and the Reins of Life.
Harry and Diane Eskridge, along with the other Drill Team leaders, Wayne and Jeni Nifong, Len and Brenda Carlson, and Waneta Skinner, would like to thank their many sponsors, the community, and the Drill Team families that supported them through the years.
The current leaders and the majority of the families currently involved, with the guidance of Purdue Extension, have made the decision to discontinue the drill team as it has stood under the leadership of Eskridge.
According to Amy Jones of the Marshall County Purdue Extension Office, there continues to be discussion of the future of the Drill Team as volunteers work with Marshall County 4-H Horse and Pony.
Carol Anders Correspondent