It’s hard for us sitting in our comfortable homes to think Friday’s Gonzaga vs. Pittsburgh game as more than just an exciting match-up in an exotic location. For those young men and women stationed thousands of miles away in Okinawa, their spouses and their families, it’s a huge event bringing a little slice of home to a faraway foreign land.
ESPN started the Armed Forces Classic in 2011 as a way to celebrate Veteran’s Day and to honor all five branches of the United States Military. The initial game, played on 11-11-11, was on the aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson. Subsequent games have been played in Ramstein, Germany (to honor the Air Force), Pyeongtaek, South Korea (Army) and Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico (Coast Guard). The Gonzaga/Pitt game will take place in the newly renovated Camp Foster Field house (Cap. 3100), part of the Camp Smedley D. Butler complex in Okinawa and will honor the Marine Corps. Next year’s final game of the event will take place in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and will feature the University of Arizona. A fitting tribute since the USS Arizona sits at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.
As you watch the game, please take some time to look at the smiling, cheering faces of those in the crowd. You are going to see Kennel-like enthusiasm from a group of very appreciative fans. Remember, they are serving their country half-way around the world. Today is Veteran’s day, so please do me a favor when you watch the game on Friday. Cheer like crazy for the Zags but please also take a moment to let out a little cheer for those in the stands.