Thursday, October 6, 2011

Athletes and Infantry

 Ft. Riley, home of the Army's First Infantry Division - also known as the Big Red One (check out the emblem at the entrance to the base and you'll see why) - is only eleven miles from Manhattan, home of Kansas State University.  The University has built a partnership with the Army in a number of areas, including designating one home football game each fall as Ft. Riley Day (because, seriously, what would be the point of designating an away game?  Sorry, didn't realize how stupid that sentence sounded till after I wrote it.)  This year, Ft. Riley Day fell last Saturday, Oct. 1, for the game against Baylor.  Active-duty soldiers and their families received lunch sponsored by a local car dealership, and game tickets donated by fans and the athletic department, as well as recognition during the game.  It's always a good day for a K-State game, but this one is special.

One of the traditions at K-State game is our mascot, Willie the Wildcat, doing push-ups following each score - the number of points on the board = the number of push-ups done. It has become a new tradition on Ft. Riley Day for soldiers to pour out of the stands following a touchdown to join Willie in his calisthenics.

Picture from Ft Riley Day 2010 courtesy of
Throughout the game, during times-out (time-outs?) or play reviews, the jumbotron screen showed Ft. Riley soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan saying hello to their families back home and cheering for the Cats.

Below is a YouTube video of the halftime show.  It's long, I know, but start the video then run get a snack, throw in a load of laundry, whatever you got that will take about six-and-a-half minutes, then come back.  At about the 3:20 point, the KSU marching band is joined by the First Infantry Division Band, and at the 6:30 mark they begin Stars and Stripes Forever.  This is the part I want you to see.  As the song ends, notice the group of soldiers carrying the large American flag as they exit to the left of the camera.

What you can't see is that these soldiers exited the stadium, carrying the flag on their shoulders, via one of the stairways through the stands - OUR section of the stands, just a few feet from where we were sitting.  Fans along both sides of the aisle, and perhaps through the stadium - I was too engrossed to notice - stood to applaud and cheer the flag and the soldiers.  I heard many shouts of "Thank you" and, I'll admit, I got a bit teary.  It was a moving, spontaneous moment.

Once the soldiers had passed, we returned to our seats until, a moment later, we heard stirrings behind us, saw parents grabbing kids by the hand (their own kids, I hope) and rushing them off to look at something.  We dashed to the top of our section to see what the hub-bub was.  The soldiers had stopped directly behind our seats to carry out a precision ceremony for folding the flag.  Forgive the grainy picture, but Dave snapped it with his dumb-phone (because - have we mentioned? - we are the last family on earth without smart-phones).  It was impressive to watch and, once again, brought a tear to my eye - for both the patriotism and respect of the routine, and the attention and awe of the crowd.

When the flag was folded to a triangle, the ends securely tucked inside, the soldiers marched out of the stadium to another round of applause - at attention the entire time, never a sideways look, never a nod or smile at the crowd.  Impressive!

Not much left to say except God Bless the U.S.A. and the soldiers who protect and defend her!


  1. Tammy,
    It was hard to see your picture from the phone at the game I loved your pictures of the flagon this blog. I just wish I had see it I was right there too. I'll have to be aware next year to watch for this.
    Dorothy Straney

  2. Tearing right up!!!

    When you see what all is going wrong in our country today - you can't help to get emotional when you see something so absolutely right!