LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – On a warm October evening at Loveland’s Thunder Mountain Amphitheatre, patriotic families gathered to honor our nation’s fallen heroes.

At the pep rally Wednesday night, the Fossil Ridge High School football team wore shirts bearing the name of a fallen soldier, sailor or airman.

READ MORE: CBS4 Fan Poll: Have the Broncos closed the gap on the Chiefs?

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“It just goes back to what our focus was — honoring the military,” said parent Heather Edridge.

The shirts will be worn under the player’s pads for Friday’s football game against Legacy. The move comes after the Poudre School District refused to allow the players to wear the soldiers’ name on their jerseys for Military Appreciation Day.

The jersey flap received national attention. The district finally allowed the players to wear a patch with an American flag and the phrase “Honor the Fallen.”

Col. Randy Russell, whose son plays for the Sabercats, says the compromise is bittersweet.

“In the end I think an awful lot of good has come from it. I still disagree with the district’s decision,” Russell said.

(credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Tom Mustin interviews Col. Randy Russell (credit: CBS)

READ MORE: Colorado Weather: Tuesday Storm May Fizzle Out For The Denver Metro

Over the summer the players were required to research the background of a fallen military member. Ben Visee says the program has changed his life.

“It’s just been a truly great experience to learn about and take a look at what these truly great men and women do for our country,” Visee said.

An image from the rally Wednesday evening (credit: CBS)

An image from the rally Wednesday evening (credit: CBS)

Wednesday night players talked about the hero they had studied and who they’ll be playing for this year.

And as tears flowed on an emotional night, Amanda Field says the jersey flap has taught Fossil Ridge students a lesson not found in any classroom.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“It was really cool for our school to come together and really focus on showing our appreciation for everything the military represents and has done for our country,” Field said.

Coach Brian Tinker says as long as he’s coach the Military Appreciation rally will be an annual event.

MORE NEWS: Firefighters Responding To The West Ranch Fire In Jefferson County

Tom Mustin is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomCBS4.