WEST POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 13, 2010) -- Every college football team has that one game that means more than anything else; not only to the players and coaches but to the entire student body, alumni and the institution. A game where the only thing that matters on that one day is what happens in between the goal lines.
However, when it comes to the Army-Navy rivalry, the two academies and their fans converge on the city of Philadelphia to watch the future military officers play a game at its purest level.
Neither academies' athletes play for the potential riches of professional football -- they play just for the love of the game. More importantly, they are playing to represent the proud graduates who have come before them that have served this country and for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this country.
By no stretch of the imagination is it just the nearly 200 athletes who don their respective school jerseys for 60 minutes of football that embody this spirit of excellence, it is the entire Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen that show the good will of the military on a daily basis.
The annual Army-Navy game, which is, notably, one the most storied rivalries in sports, embodies so much more than the game itself.
Before either football team departed for the City of Brotherly Love, each academy's Marathon Team began a more-than-150-mile trek by foot to deliver the game ball to Lincoln Financial Field. With police escorts through three states, cadets and midshipmen alike ran throughout the night like those in classes before them have done for more than 20 years.
There are also newer traditions like the Patriot Games, where teams compete in friendly competitions through the city. This year the cadets competed not only for school pride, but also to help the community as a whole when two teams raced to fill boxes of non-perishable food that would be distributed to local food pantries.
Although there were countless other memorable moments that happened prior to the teams' renewal of this heated rivalry for the 111th time Dec. 11, one of the greatest symbols of selfless service happened during the coin toss.
As the captains of each team prepared to walk across the field for the coin toss, each team was joined by three Medal of Honor recipients. The Army was joined by the first living Medal of Honor recipient from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta; Paul Bucha (West Point Class of 1965), who had spoken to the Army team earlier in the week; and Josh Jacobs.
The Navy captains were escorted by Medal of Honor recipients Barney Barum, Tom Huder and Joseph Kerry. They walked onto the field hand-in-hand. The team leaders and future leaders of their respective branches had the opportunity to be around true heroes. Twenty years from now, the outcome of this game may not be remembered, but the fact that these six American heroes were on the field together will never be forgotten.
With everyone in attendance on their feet for such a historic moment, one can only imagine what was going through everyone's minds the moment that coin was tossed in the air. A roar came across the stadium as the teams entered the field while being accompanied by flyovers from the U.S. Navy F-18 Hornets and U.S. Army Apache Helicopters.
During the break between the third and fourth quarters, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Army Historical Foundation Executive Director retired Brig. Gen. Creighton W. Abrams Jr. unveiled designs for three 2011 Army Commemorative Coins, which will go on sale in early February. Proceeds from the sales will go to the Army Historical Foundation to help finance the National Museum of the United States Army, which will be built at Fort Belvoir, Va.
Even though the Black Knights did not secure a victory this year, falling to the Mids 31-17, they will go on and fight another day, taking on the Southern Methodist University Mustangs Dec. 30, in their first bowl appearance since 1996.
The game is what brings these two great institutions together every year on a neutral site, yet the game embodies so much more than just football. For one Saturday afternoon in early December, the country and audiences in far-off lands get an opportunity to sit back and see what Army and Navy football players play for and what they represent and stand for.
Army unveils coin designs during Army-Navy game
Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta
STAND-TO!: The U.S. Army All-American Bowl
STAND-TO!: Medal of Honor Recipients to Participate in the Coin Toss at Army-Navy Game