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The Young Thundering Herd’s Mark Miller greets people gathering around the Marshall Memorial at Spring Hill Cemetery on Sept. 19, 2021, in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Marshall University’s annual ceremony to honor the 75 lives lost as a plane returned from a football game in 1970 will feature a member of the Young Thundering Herd who helped rebuild the team.

The Huntington community was forever changed Nov. 14, 1970, when Southern Airways Flight 932 crashed into a hillside as it approached Tri-State Airport carrying 75 members of the Thundering Herd teammates, coaches, staff, supporters and flight crew members on board.

Mark Miller, a freshman on the football team, did not travel with the varsity players. Recruited by Red Dawson, his role was to help prepare the varsity squad as they practiced for their next opponent, building relationships and bonds that were supposed to carry out for a lifetime.

However, in an instant Miller’s role changed from being a helper on the sidelines to having a major role in rebuilding the program to honor fallen teammates.

Miller will tell his story and how it molded his life at 2 p.m. Sunday at the university’s 51st annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony. A moment of silence and remembrance will also be held at 7:36 p.m. Sunday at the crash site near the Tri-State Airport.

After 43 years of working within the Caterpillar dealer network in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky, Miller is enjoying retirement with his wife of 45 years, Connie, in the couple’s hometown of Prestonsburg. The couple lives close to their three adult children, their spouses and six grandchildren.

He said his bond with Marshall is forever an intricate part of him and he stands proudly as a true son of Marshall.

“With time, I strived to honor those who were lost, to comfort their families and to identify the best approach to heal and move forward,” Miller said.

The day of remembrance follows the Thundering Herd’s matchup against the University of Alabama at Birmingham at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium. In a uniform preview posted Monday, Marshall football showed the Herd will be wearing a throwback helmet donning the 1970 University logo and script with a green stripe down the center with every name of the lives lost written in white text.

Fans are encouraged to wear black to Saturday’s game to honor the 75.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, masks are required in all university buildings and are strongly encouraged even outside at Sunday’s event.

The service can be viewed live online at livestream.com/marshallu.

The Herald-Dispatch dedicated a portion of its website to educating the general public about the crash and sharing stories which were birthed from it. The section can be found at herald-dispatch.com/sports/marshall_plane_crash/.

Courtney Hessler is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch, covering police and courts. Follow her on Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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