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Army-Navy Football: What the game means to America

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The Army-Navy Game is the annual event that brings our country together through the use of football.

Army v Navy Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Against All Enemies website was created in order to give the Cadets and Midshipmen of the various service academies the coverage they deserve for their athletic success. However, a secondary reason for the site is to honor the young men and women who have decided to make the commitment to serve their country despite all the turmoil and uncertainty in today’s world.

In preparation for the Army-Navy Game, the Against All Enemies staff has produced a series of articles explaining what the game means to various groups:

  1. The Students
  2. The Schools
  3. The Alumni
  4. The Service Branches
  5. College Football

For the final article in the series, we will discuss what the Army-Navy means to the United States of America as a country.

When tragedy has impacted our country, sports have always been present to bring us back together and uplift our spirits. This has ranged from a Yankee’s baseball game after the 9/11 attack in 2001 to the Houston Astro’s World Series win after the destruction of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

The Army-Navy Game is an annual event that brings our country together to celebrate and appreciate our freedom.

The game is such a national event that even the President of the United States, Donald Trump, will be attending the game.

Army v Navy Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Service and Sacrifice

We are humbled by the commitment, dedication, and bravery by the young men that are on the field. We have heard it before.

This game is the only game, where everyone on the field playing, is willing to sacrifice everything, put their life on the line, and die for everyone watching.

The players of both sides of the ball demonstrate a quality that is slowly slipping as a primary characteristic of our country: sacrifice. Every single Midshipmen or Cadet playing in the game could have played football at another college and had even the slightest chance to play in the NFL. With incredible academic requirements to be accepted to and graduate from a service academy like West Point or Annapolis, any of these players could have earned academic scholarships at other schools and found a great job outside of the military after college. Instead, their 17-year old self made the biggest decision of their life to attend a service academy and serve their country.

These young men forego the stereotypical college life in order to study hard, learn their profession, and prepare themselves to lead young men and women in the military. All this is done for love of country.

Following graduation, the Cadets of Army West Point will commission as Second Lieutenants in the United States Army. For the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy, they will either commission as Second Lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps or as Ensigns in the United States Navy. Both service requirements last a minimum of five years.

During these five years, many of them will be sent to every corner of the world, away from their friends and family, to spread peace on behalf of American diplomacy. Today they play a football game in front of millions. Tomorrow, they stand in front of citizens of countries around the globe representing the United States of America.

Army v Navy Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The concept of team and selflessness

On a football team, it is necessary to play your role, your position, to the best of your ability. As Navy Coach, Ken Niumatalolo, tells his team year after year, “Do your job!”, the players understand that the success of the team depends on them doing their individual job. And if every individual players just focuses on their small piece of the scheme, the entire team can then accomplishes the goal. But the instance one player gets distracted and either tries to be a hero, or focuses on someone else’s job, another gap opens up and leaves the team vulnerable. And therefore, each player needs to be selfless and humble enough to “Do their job” for the good of the whole team. And this is easy for many of the players because being selfless is just part of their nature.

Where many other college football players are considerate of their NFL futures, nobody on this field is playing for themselves or their future in football. The players play for the love of the man to their left and to their right. They play for the pride of their school. They play for their friends and family watching in the stands and watching back home.

This selflessness these players embody is representative of so much of what they will do in their future jobs. During deployments they will be fighting for the man and woman next to them, for their country, and the freedom of this country.

However, in this game, they also demonstrate what so many Americans do on a day-to-day basis. Everyday, the majority of what we do is for the ones we love: our kids, our spouses, our parents. We see an extension of ourselves when watching this game.

And it makes us proud. It makes us proud to live in a country where we can work hard in order to earn a better life for ourselves and our loved ones. In a time where social media constantly updates us on all the wealth and prosperity, it can be discouraging to continue the everyday grind. But when we watch the Navy and Army football players fight for every inch on that football field, we know that we are not alone.

When watching this game, these players set an example that remind us that there are still many people in our country who make great sacrifices for and serve those around them.

This Saturday, when relaxing on your couch watching America’s Game, don’t forget to be grateful for all that these young men will do for our country. But also take a minute and recognize yourself for all that you do for your family and your community. We all play only a small role to contribute to the world around us. But as long as we continue to “Do our job”, everyone will succeed.

The author, Gavin Jernigan, was a member of the Navy Football team from 2012-2016. He graduated from Annapolis in 2016 and commissioned as a Marine Corps Aviator.