By Sgt. 1st Class Christopher FinchamDecember 4, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Along with a brand new uniform ensemble, the Army Black Knights will be wearing more than 20 different unit patches when they take on the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen in the 113th meeting between the two academies Dec. 8, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
The patches have become a staple of the football uniform for the Army-Navy Game since 1988's matchup, and Army teams have been representing the force by wearing the unit patches throughout the season. Eleven different patches were worn this year--one for each game--in honor of the Soldiers of each organization.
During this year's classic, units will be represented by players based on position. Army running backs, the workhorses in the spread offense, will wear 10th Mountain Division, while the offensive linemen will be working to create holes in the line while wearing the "Old Ironsides" patch of 1st Armored Division. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions will be represented by the Army's defensive front--the linebackers, defensive ends and linemen, respectively. Also on defense, the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) will be seen in the secondary on the Army cornerbacks and safeties. On offense, quarterbacks will honor the U.S. Army Special Operations Command; fullbacks, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 25th Infantry Division will be worn by the receiving corps.
There will also be several unique patches on Army players. Under head coach Rich Ellerson's leadership, players have been afforded the option to select a patch on their own for Army-Navy games. This year 20 cadets made the decision to wear specific patches to honor someone important in their lives.
Of the unique patches on the field, the Black Lion patch, which is in honor of former Army football player Don Holleder, Class of 1956, and Soldiers of the 28th Infantry Regiment, will be worn by Army's starting quarterback, senior Trent Steelman, as an award for earning the most "Ranger" awards for the season.
Many players, like junior running back Jon Crucitti, brought in their own patch for this game. He'll be wearing the patch of the 45th Infantry Division "Thunderbirds," something he's done the last two years in honor of his grandfather, who served in the unit during World War II.
"It is my 95-year old grandfather's patch that came right off of his old greens from World War II," Crucitti said. "To me that patch represents how hard he had to fight to stay alive and win. Sure he got banged up, but it never stopped him from accomplishing the mission."
The patches are very significant to each player. Wearing the Joint Special Operations Command patch, freshman defensive end Dalton Mendenhall will be paying tribute to his brother who deployed recently to Afghanistan. Junior defensive lineman Mitch McKearn will honor his father by wearing one of his dad's patches from his time in command at the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.
"I choose to wear this patch to honor Maj. Jim Queen, who was the [executive officer] in the unit and a personal family friend of mine," explained senior running back Kelechi Odocha, who will wear a 2nd Ranger Company patch that his mentor wore during his wartime service.
The 2nd Ranger Company was the first volunteer, segregated, black Airborne Ranger unit commanded by black officers. The patch serves as a constant motivator to Odocha and is kept in his locker throughout the season.
"It represents the people who came before me and how they fought to be seen as equals--that no matter how hard a situation got, they did not give up and persevered through adversity," Odocha said. "It means a lot to be a senior at the academy and to wear this patch on game day to honor the Soldiers who paved the way for me to be able to become an officer in the United States Army."
Sophomore offensive lineman Steve Shumaker will wear the 28th Infantry Division patch of his grandfather, who served in the Pennsylvania National Guard during the Korean War. He looks forward to honoring him on the field against the Midshipmen.
"Wearing this patch during Army-Navy means the world to me," he said. "It allows me to thank him in a small way for all that he has done for me and my family--as well as the nation. I wear it with pride knowing that he will be in attendance when his old unit's patch is worn against Navy."