Thomas Christian’s love of U-M football led to creation of ‘Veteran of the Game’ honor
The Dearborn Detachment of the Marine Corps League will hold a memorial service for MCL member Thomas Christian, who died in his Dearborn home in December at the age of 74. The service will take place at 2 p.m. Jan. 26 at Fort Dearborn American Legion Post 364, 3001 S. Telegraph.
Christian was an associate member in the MCL’s Dearborn Detachment 152. A graduate of the University of Michigan, he was a dedicated U-M football fan and volunteer, playing an instrumental role in many organized activities.
A life-long Dearborn resident, Christian graduated from Dearborn High School, where he participated in the city’s Junior Hockey League. Following high school, he attended U-M where he was an active member of the ATO Fraternity. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree and went on to earn a master’s.
Following graduation, Christian worked as an investment broker, and then as a certified public accountant at one of the area’s major accounting firms. He soon discovered an aptitude for land development and, building upon his accounting experience, he went on to lucrative employment with major real estate development companies. During the Vietnam War years he joined the Army Reserves where he served in an Army intelligence unit.
From childhood, Christian was an avid U-M football fan, and throughout his adult years was a season ticket holder. His life-long passion for Wolverines football led to his membership in the Michigan Victors Club and support of the club program – which also led to his coveted parking space with an unparalleled view of the Michigan band as it marched past his tailgate into the stadium.
Christian said he experienced a kind of epiphany when his tailgate grew into more than an entertainment spot. It became a means for him to express his deep-rooted patriotism. In the final home game of the 2014 season, he was asked by a Marine veteran and friend to host a World War II Marine veteran of Iwo Jima who was the U-M Athletic Department’s designated “Veteran of the Game” at his tailgate prior to and after the game.
Christian agreed, and the VOG proved to be a hit with fans. Then and there, he teamed with a Marine veteran to repeat the event in following seasons.
The VOG celebration has grown into a patriotic display involving the U-M band’s traditional greeting of the veteran. The University of Michigan’s student veteran volunteers joined in to assist in managing the VOG Tailgate, setting up tents, serving food and specialties – including Christian’s legendary Bloody Marys.
Christian’s association with the VOG Tailgate grew, and in April 2016 he and several VOG Marines met with the 37th Commandant of the USMC, Gen. Robert D. Neller. The group’s motto, “Veterans Helping Veterans” quickly caught on as the tailgate became a fixture in the pre-game activities. The VOG Tailgate gave Christian great joy.
Christian leaves his daughter, Lauren; his sister Mary Beth (Harris) of New Bern, N.C.; niece, Kathleen Monroe of San Francisco; and cousin Jan Sturges of Tucson, Ariz.
Memorial donations can be made to the “Memorial Service for Thomas Christian” GoFundMe account through a link posted on the University of Michigan Veteran of the Game Tailgate Facebook page.