The Army vs. Navy game is “the” tradition like no other. This year is the 122nd meeting. I watch not because I like football (I do); I watch because I am proud to be an American. With few exceptions, the men who have played in Army vs. Navy games carried no ambition to play a down in the NFL. They play for the love of the game. Once seniors take their football Academy uniforms off for the last time, they will don a different uniform and serve the nation.
My son was a member of the Navy Leapfrogs Parachute Team and had the honor of being part of the game’s pageantry, not as a player on the field but as a parachutist. The Leapfrogs and Army Black Knights bring a “game ball” into the game. He was generally nonplussed about jumping into football games like NFL and college games — but he felt the goosebumps that come with an Army-Navy game.
The video below shows the Leapfrogs bringing in flags at a Kansas City Chiefs game on 9/11 in 2016. My son is bringing in the Stars and Stripes. At about three minutes, he seems to be suspended mid-air.
The game is everything right about college football. Young men battling on a field, and then greeting each other at the end of an end zone as comrades, singing an academy song. They share a moment of rivalry but also a common bond. They signed up to serve, and serve they will. Some will die in that service. Stephen “Chase” Prasnicki played quarterback for the Black Knights, and graduated with the class of 2010. He died in Afghanistan two years later.
This year, the Navy will honor Commander Brain Bourgeois.
Bourgeois graduated in 2006, then went to BUDs to earn his trident and serve as a SEAL. He died a few days ago during a training exercise. Midshipmen will carry his SEAL Team 8 flag out of the tunnel and onto the field. On the sideline will be a uniform with Bourgeois’ number “13.”
I don’t know the numbers, but it’s a fair bet that dozens if not hundreds of men who strapped on a helmet in the proceeding 121 years of this glorious rivalry have laid down their lives in defense of America. When you watch today, remember those men. Recognize that men on that field today may give their lives for freedom wearing a common uniform.
Go Navy, Beat Army!