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Celebrating Veteran's Day with Football

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on AmericanChronicle.com, Sunday, November 12, 2006

As a veteran of the Armed Forces, and a football fan, I recently had the good fortune of being able to celebrate both aspects of my life on the same day.

You see, Veteranís Day (November 11) fell on a Saturday this year, and Saturdays in November mean one thing, college football.

For the third year in a row, Eastern Michigan University was hosting a game at Ford Field in downtown Detroit called the Collegiate Clash. Normally, EMU plays their home games on campus at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, just west of Detroit. But this annual, neutral site game is really beginning to catch on.

The first Collegiate Clash game was played at Ford Field in 2004 when the Eastern Michigan Eagles hosted their Mid-American Conference rival, the Central Michigan Chippewas. EMU won the game 61-58 in four overtimes! In last yearís Collegiate Clash, EMU played another MAC rival team, Western Michigan. WMU won that game 44-36.

Having missed the last two Collegiate Clash games in Detroit, I decided to take in this yearís game when I realized the opponent was going to be the Midshipmen from the Naval Academy. The game took on even more significance for me since it was being played on Veteranís Day.

I made the two-hour drive over to Detroit from my home in Kalamazoo along with my two oldest sons, ages 17 and 12. We had been to a Detroit Lions preseason game at Ford Field earlier this year and have been there several times since it opened in 2002.

I spent 21 years in the Michigan Air National Guard, a reserve component of the Air Force, and retired from the service in 2002. As anyone who has ever served in the military will tell you, there is a special feeling of mutual respect between those who have served and those who are currently serving, regardless of the branch of service. Even though Eastern Michigan was the ďhome team,Ē I couldnít help but root for the Navy.

I didnít plan it this way, but as it turned out, our seats were on the side of the field where all the Navy fans were seated, and man were there a lot of them. They must have come from all over the Midwest to see their team. It looked like a Navy convention of former service members and their families.

A Different Perspective on the Game

It is only natural to be watching a college football game and wonder if you might see some of these exceptional athletes playing in the NFL someday. But as I watched the Navy Midshipmen, I knew that their lives were going in a much different direction after graduation than that of the typical college student. People donít go to a service academy as a way to get to the NFL. Any thoughts they may have of someday playing professional football will have to wait until after their tours of duty were over.

Such was the case for Navy quarterback Roger Staubach, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1963 and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1964. However, Staubach did not join the Cowboys until 1969, after his Naval service was through.

Seeing the Navy players on the field and their cheerleaders on the sidelines, as well as the band members and the student section in the stands all decked out in their dark blue uniforms and white hats, was a sobering experience. It made me realize that this team is more about doing what is best for the country and less about what they may want for themselves in the field of athletics.

In the end, Navy defeated Eastern Michigan by the score of 49-21 and improved its record to 7-3. Just last week, Navy also accepted an invitation to play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on December 30 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Eastern Michiganís record dropped to 1-9.

Another service academy was also playing football on Veteranís Day. The Air Force Academy played host to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in Colorado Springs. Notre Dame defeated Air Force 39-17.

Army did not have a game scheduled on Veteranís Day. However, the annual Army-Navy game is scheduled for December 2 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, home of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles.

So the next time you are watching a college football game involving Army, Navy or Air Force, be aware that these students will soon be a part of a new team, one that has nothing to do with sports. But no matter how long they choose to serve their country in the United States military, they will all one day be members of the same fraternity. The fraternity known as, Veterans.


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