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by Catherine McCarthy

Amidst all of the post super bowl chatter about the Raven’s win, and the best and worst commercials was this Monday morning quarterbacking from the Washington Post: When we cheer for our team, do we have to cheer for America, too?  The writer, for some unknown reason, wondered why our service members and patriotism HAVE TO be a part of every big sporting event.

Normally, I just roll my eyes at this kind of drive by piece, but for some reason, this essay struck a nerve with me. I found myself mentally responding to every sentence in the first paragraph:

Certified "Real" Veterans

These veterans appreciate it.

The customary flyover by fighter jets may be absent from this weekend’s Super Bowl; after all, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans is covered.

But the Louisiana Air National Guard 159th Fighter Wing was flying over…providing security.  Just a regular day for a lot of our service members.

CBS will cut to shots of troops watching the game overseas.

We hope every one of them enjoyed it and returns home to their family.  Some won’t.

Veterans will be recognized on the stadium’s video boards.

At least they are getting recognized…as more than a suicide statistic.

And flag imagery will abound, as will stirring renditions of the national anthem and, most likely, “America the Beautiful.”

The Newtown children’s choir singing America the Beautiful was kind of nice, I thought.  And The Star Spangled Banner is actually quite hard to sing as written.  Two competitors sang it a capella at my daughter’s swim meet last Wednesday night.  When that beautiful soprano voice hit that high note, I had goose bumps. Not something I get when I hear “All the Single Ladies.”

It is so tempting, and would be all too easy, to go down Professor Jenkins essay piece by piece and respond.  But those of us who are or have been serving for any length of time have been down this road before. Been there, heard that.

But, why she is scratching her head and bemoaning the mystery of all of the “militaristic rituals” is beyond me.  That concept dates back to the Greeks (Olympics, anyone?) and further.

What? No VIP boxes?

These guys were hardcore, and didn’t have Beyonce. Plus, Zeus was watching.

Has the professor who wrote “The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television” ever seen one of the numerous hour long recaps of prior Super Bowls and big games?  The ominous music as they flash to the teams lined up at the line of scrimmage, the slow motion clashing at the hand off.  The description of players as “warriors”, even going so far as the close up of bloodied and bruised fingers and stained jerseys.  Games are referred to in glorious voiceovers as “wars” and “battles”.  With football being arguably a 100% American sport on top of it, it isn’t hard to see why the patriotic theme runs throughout the big game.

That’s a theme.  Not political statement.  And while I reject rudeness as a general rule, what the athletes held up as being mistreated for their stands did was a political statement.  I may not like pink, but I don’t go to my friend’s daughter’s birthday party and start railing on gender roles because of her choice of pink decorations.  File that under “tact” and “no brainer.”

Party on, America!

This was a pretty cool theme to a January party.

I am going to assume that the Professor is quite learned, and that none of what I have written above is news to her, so it begs the question of the purpose of her piece.  I’ll leave that up to each reader to decide.

Not A Gimmick

Certified “real.”

In a few days, I’m going to be at Old Dominion University watching my daughter, her teammates, and many others compete in a huge meet that will decide if they go on to the State Championship.  The flag will be flown.  The National Anthem will be played.  I guarantee that behind the blocks, at that moment, will be a teenager with an aching heart for a parent who won’t be there to see this moment.  There will be veterans there for whom the National anthem reminds them of friends lost, the pain of injuries, but the sweetness of watching these children live free. Men and women in uniform (we call them parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and friends).  Some coming off duty, some going on, some on their lunch break.   It is not “vaudeville silencing political dissent”, “gimmickry” or a “cheap thrill.”

I live in a heavily military area, with major bases.  For many in this area, the words “war”, “veteran” and “service member” are not abstract terms, or political statements, they’re realities.  The weekend before the “theatrics” that so irritate the Professor, Hampton buried a native son.  KIA in Afghanistan.  25 years old.  Folks stood in sub freezing weather, on snow covered sidewalks to pay respects as the procession went by. My children go to school daily with children whose parents are on their umpteenth deployment. Their field trips are to places like Yorktown Battlefield.  You can’t throw a rock in this area without hitting a Civil War site.  My daughter regularly competes at Hampton University, where you can still visit the Emancipation Oak. It also happens to be in sight of the major VA Regional Medical Center.  Look a little further and you can see Ft Monroe.  Real history.  Real reminders of who we are and the reason we can get up every morning and not be afraid. Rough men, and women, have and will continue to stand at the ready.

Something happened here in 1781.  There's even a Mel Gibson movie about it.

The battles are our history. Something happened here in 1781. There’s even a Mel Gibson movie about it.

My challenge to the Professor is this: dig deeper.  Look beyond Iraq, Afghanistan, September 11, 2001. Talk to a military family, a veteran, a wounded warrior.  Might take some effort as we tend to look like everyone else. We hide in plain sight, so to speak.  Even in crowds at the Super Bowl.

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Today’s Opening Ceremonies mark the official beginning of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, better known as the 2012 London Olympics.  Four billion people around the world are expected to tune in to see the parade of 10,000 athletes, watch the 15,000 performers, and celebrate the ceremonial start of the Games with the Lighting of the Olympic Torch.  Every two years, we unite as country and cheer for Team USA  as they represent our great country on the world stage.  This year’s games, like several before, we in the military community have a special source of pride.  Twenty members of the United States military will be among the American athletes walking in the parade and participating in the London games.

Army SFC Dremiel Byers is among many service members representing Team USA in this year’s Olympics and is a strong medal contender in his sport of Greco-Roman Wrestling.

Service members have been participating in the Olympics since 1896 as athletes and coaches in both the summer and winter games.  Over 600 soldiers have traded tan and green uniforms  for red and blue and represented the United States as coaches and athletes.  They have returned home, not with military decorations, but bearing more than 140 Olympic medals in boxing, wrestling, shooting, and track and field and many others.  After all, with a motto like Citius, Altius, Fortius, Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” who better to represent the United States than the men and women of our Armed Forces?

Be on the lookout for

Operation Homefront wishes our military Olympians and the rest of the American team good luck!  USA!

(Article by Rachel O’Hern, military spouse, a recent addition at Operation Homefront and all-around great gal!)

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By Catherine McCarthy

Sports is human life in microcosm.  ~Howard Cosell

Did you hear?  There’s a big game this weekend. How big? It is estimated that 100+ million people will tune in to watch.  Considering about 98% of that will be from inside the US, that works out to about 1/3 of the country.  Close to as many that voted in the last presidential election.

Americans love of sports rivals our love of country. Some could say, more so. It’s probably true that folks are currently more concerned at this moment about Super Bowl point spreads and smorgasbords than who is watching a hillside, a fence line, and our skies in places where flat screens and HiDef take a far backseat to basic needs like food, shelter and freedom. But there are times in sports when our ideals of perseverance, courage, opportunity, teamwork and excellence coalesce into one beautiful moment, where we connect as TEAM USA:

Whitney Houston National Anthem 1991 Super Bowl:

Ten days after the start of Operation Desert Storm, Super Bowl XXV kicked off in Tampa with what is now considered to be the gold standard for performing the National Anthem. Dare you not to get goosebumps:

Jesse Owens 1936 Olympic Games, Berlin:

Courage in the Face of the Furher

Despised by the Nazi regime not only for being American, but African American, Owens would not be cowed by hatred and went on to represent the Red White and Blue by winning four Gold Medals in Track and Field at the Olympic Games in Berlin.

David and Goliath 1980

Miracle on Ice:

Decades of Cold War tensions boiled over in the 1980 Winter Olympics match up between the United States and the Soviet Union on a patch of ice at Lake Placid NY. A team of amateur college players up against a state sponsored machine that had dominated Olympic gold since 1964. An underdog victory so iconic that many don’t realize that it wasn’t the gold medal event (which the US went on to win).

 

 

“For America”,  Jack Buck September 17, 2001,

At the time Buck, himself a veritable institution among American Sportscasting, was sick with lung cancer struggled to maintain his composure to deliver this poignant poem first night back for Major League Baseball, less than a week after the terrorists attacks of 9-11

Since this nation was founded under God,
more than 200 years ago,
We have been the bastion of freedom,
the light that keeps the free world aglow.
We do not covet the possessions of others;
We are blessed with the bounty we share.
We have rushed to help other nations;
anything…anytime…anywhere.
War is just not our nature,
We won’t start but we will end the fight.
If we are involved,
We shall be resolved,
To protect what we know is right.
We have been challenged by a cowardly foe,
Who strikes and then hides from our view.
With one voice we say,
“We have no choice today,
There is only one thing to do.”
Everyone is saying the same thing and praying,
That we end these senseless moments we are living.
As our fathers did before,
We shall win this unwanted war,
And our children will enjoy the future we’ll be giving.

Here’s to all American heroes, past and present, on and off the battlefield, and to those moments that have us all chanting, “USA! USA!”  Feel free to add your favorite moments or join the convo on our Facebook page:

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