by Andy Weddington
Monday, 05 December 2016
Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea. Samuel Johnson
On Saturday, 29 November 1941, Navy beat Army 14-6.
My father was five days past his birthday - 6 years old. He grew up to be an high school All-State football player. Rather than college and pursue football, he opted to enlist in the military. I never asked if he held any memories of that 1941 game. And can't.
Eight days later, Sunday 07 December, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
The surprise strike left massive destruction and death.
Suddenly, football did not seem so important.
America's youth shelved pads and leather helmets for rifles and steel pots.
Battlefields replaced football fields.
And so did bullet wounds and death replace ankle sprains and bloody noses and missed games.
To this day, Pearl Harbor dead are still being identified and returned to family.
I know an Admiral who has represented the Navy in three recent ceremonies returning USS Oklahoma Sailors to family - full military honors rendered with proper burial. The three young men were teenagers.
Not just family but Americans, strangers, turn out to pay respects - the years, the decades, not tempering emotions.
This past Saturday Navy played Temple. I did not watch the game, any game. I heard Navy lost. And some key players, including their quarterback, injured will not play Saturday.
Rather, with the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor being Wednesday, I watched the History Channel's extensive programming about the attack. And about World War II.
The older I get the "it-was-not-so-long-ago" sentiment hits.
The fighting in the Pacific and in Europe was brutal.
Loss of life - military and civilian - unfathomable.
Man was at his worst.
Man was at his best.
Saturday coming Navy plays Army.
A relatively "inexperienced" 19-year old, Zach Abey, will be at quarterback for Navy.
Mulling over all I've read about Pearl Harbor and World War II (especially South Pacific theatre), learned speaking with combat veterans, and watching history programs, Midshipman Abey's mission, comparatively, is rather simple and danger-free.
That a bunch of "inexperienced" 19-year olds, and many younger, took Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, and a bunch of other hell holes in the Pacific (and Europe), Midshipman Abey's atoll - a flat, well-manicured, lined, rectangular bit of turf not defended with automatic weapons nor artillery - is not so daunting.
It's a game - not a war - but a fight, with rules, and a deeper sense of comradeship to be decided on a football field not a battlefield.
Simple as that.
Take the hill.
Raise the colors.
In closing ...
Navy's 1941 win over Army capped a 7-1-1 season and a Final AP ranking of 10. Notre Dame beat Navy by a touchdown and Harvard played to a tie. The Irish Final AP ranking was 3. Harvard nor Army made the Top 20. This year's Temple team currently sits at 23 on the AP. Navy nor Army is ranked. But that is irrelevant.
Considering history and this week's solemn ceremonies remembering tremendous sacrifice and courage, spirits and emotions in play. Navy will not be denied. So believes a Marine - who once played football.