The following blog post was written by Lt. Alexa Forsyth, a 2004 Naval Academy graduate currently attending Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, R.I. It’s a reflection on the Army-Navy football tradition and the legacy it’s left on her family during her years in service.
I have been in the Navy for seven years, and yet I still have a difficult time trying to explain to my very civilian New England family what a surface warfare officer is, does, or represents. I have tried to describe the leadership highs of seeing a division develop skills and advance in their rates, or the ingenuity that I see my Sailors employ to solve seemingly impossible problems to meet mission tasking. However, there is one time during the year when my family understands just how amazing the people I work with and for are, and that is the Army-Navy football game. For four quarters of football, my family watches as teams fight with everything that they have for each yard. These athletes are not playing to impress the NFL. These athletes compete for pride, for their own self respect and love of their team. During the game, my family has gotten to witness the sense of humor that the Navy and the Army have through Spirit Spots. Commands all over the globe send in clips to playfully poke fun at the other team. You won’t see the clips on TV, only in the stadium, but they reveal that military minds are creative and entertaining.
Attendees also witness camaraderie, brotherhood, and hope–and not just on the field–the fans (whether alumni, friends, or family) support their respective side, but also have a bond with those across the stadium. Everyone in the stadium is painfully aware that in a matter of a few years or months those players will be in harm’s way. For a few hours, those young people are surrounded by a mass of fans who appreciate them and their service. If you happen to be an outsider to the game, you will feel the pride of the stadium swell throughout the game–the sensation is infectious. My favorite part of the game is at the end where both schools sing each other’s alma matter. That moment is always the one that tugs the heartstrings of newbies to the game. I remember my cousins’ shock as they watched the professionalism of the players throughout both songs. No, there will be no burning of trees, or pulling down goal posts here. Because at the end of the day, those men on the field, and their classmates in the stands, will one day meet again out in the theater of battle … where things really count.
Football is a common game that my entire family loves and understands, no matter their professional background. But it is only during the Army-Navy game that I think all of them understand why I chose the Navy as a career. A simple football game illustrates all of my reasons for staying in the Navy that words alone could not express. For providing me with a medium to explain my love of service to my family, I will always be grateful. Thank you to the players, the Midshipmen, and the Cadets. However, for the purposes of the gridiron showdown, I would be remiss if I did not say, “Go Navy! Beat Army!”