Eagles Land at Ft. Stewart for Special Visit
Various FCS schools spent Friday afternoon continuing their preparation for second-round Saturday playoff matchups. Some teams got final gameplan instructions; Georgia Southern both gave and received a whole lot more.
Head coach Jeff Monken took 14 Eagle players, All-American tackle Brent Russell and injured safety Derek Heyden included, to Fort Stewart for an afternoon of service, thanks and powerful perspective. Georgia Southern arrived as special guests for the Warrior Transition Unit's annual Christmas Party on base. The unit helps focus, position and rehabilitate troops physically or psychologically wounded overseas. The Eagles were the centerpiece of a gathering organized by the Warrior Transition Unit, Southern Eagle Distributing, SouthernPigskin.com and countless volunteers. Soldiers and their families received gifts, signed CD's from country music superstars Rodney Atkins and Darius Rucker.
The Georgia Southern guests were greeted at the base gate and transported to the WTU offices. Over one hundred troops in uniform anxiously awaited their arrival and, affirming their appreciation, welcomed the coaches and players to the party with a standing ovation. It was a poignant moment, one that was quickly and emotionally reciprocated. Standing before recovering heroes, men and women who give us all the right to take games like football so seriously, Monken represented the GSU family and civilians across the state by sharing some words. In speaking to our wounded warriors, Monken spoke for us all.
The second-year head coach talked of sacrifice, selflessness and traits many regularly-associated with athletic teams. Monken, of course, was referencing the greatest team of all. With no notice or notes, Monken personally thanked the soldiers in the room for close to five minutes before introducing each of the individual players in attendance. Members of the Georgia Southern team will soon stare across the line at one of the best teams FCS football has to offer; Friday afternoon they looked ahead and saw the best America has to offer.
Over a dozen Eagle players went on to pass out shirts, gifts and firm handshakes to soldiers and their families. The team stayed for close to three hours, taking a touching break from football less than 24 hours from their biggest showdown of the season. Smiles filled the room as did stories from both on the field and in the field. The irony of the afternoon is that both those from Georgia Southern and those representing our country felt like they were the fortunate ones. Each side, in different contexts, saw heroes.
Heyden's presence was especially poignant. In a room filled with some severely wounded soldiers, Heyden had a very real bond with those around him. Injured earlier in the season with a broken neck, the all-league safety has his mobility limited by a halo brace. There was a special tie of compassion between he and those he came to see. It was obvious from the onset.
Many of the Georgia Southern players left Fort Stewart with Friday afternoon being their only experience interacting with military personnel. They came as strangers, bused in wide-eyed and shy, perhaps even intimidated by the setting. They left with new friends and, a commonality we should all strive to share, a new perspective
SouthernPigskin.com has posted an album of photo on its facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150428573391390.389965.79450221389&type=1
- Category: Football
- Published on Saturday, 03 December 2011 13:10