I love irony and at one time took my shirts to the cleaners at the same time if irony is so rich why aren’t I a millionaire?
I grew up with the Army-Navy game. As a Navy “brat” I have always had a deep affinity for Navy and can say that no matter who they play I am pretty much always for the Midshipmen. Now my affinity for Navy went against my dad who despite being a Navy Chief had grown up as an Army fan with little love for the Midshipmen.
The irony is something that I find fascinating, my dad the Army fan joins the Navy and serves a full career but never embraces the Midshipmen. His son, me, Padre Steve after being told by the Abbess that she will not marry him if he joins the Navy enlists in the Army goes through the Army ROTC program and becomes an Army officer spending a total of 17 ½ years in the Army, the Army National Guard and Army Reserve before resigning from the Army and entering the Navy in February 1999 taking a reduction for the rank of Major to Navy Lieutenant to do so. Of course my dad the Army fan was at loss that I joined the Army but rejoiced practically parading a picture of me in my Dress Whites around the neighborhood according to what I heard from my vantage point 3000 miles away.
So anyway the Navy brat turned Army Officer turned Navy Officer and Chaplain is still a Navy fan. When I was in the Army I would wear a “Go Navy” button on the inside of whatever Army uniform, be it the BDU or the Class A uniform the week of the game. If someone asked what I thought about the game or who I thought would win I would whip out the “Go Navy” button.
Now I do have one connection with an Army all-time great, Bill, “The Lonely End” Carpenter also known as Lieutenant General Carpenter who in Vietnam was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. I met the General the summer of my pre-commissioning camp and troop leadership training at Fort Lewis Washington. I had had a pretty rough six weeks in the ROTC “Advanced Camp.” Having been destroyed and built back up by Sergeant First Class, or Drill Sergeant Harry Ball. Moving across the base I went to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry of the 9th Infantry Division. It was with the 2nd of the 1st that things got better and I came into my own. I was assigned as a platoon leader during the unit’s ARTEP, Army Readiness Test and Evaluation Program, the mother of all training events in the life of an Army unit. During our time on the defense I was inspecting the far end of our positions which happened to be the right flank of the company at dusk. Now dusk at Fort Lewis in the summer comes pretty late and it was close to 2100, or 9:30 PM to civilians and those in the Air Force. With dusk approaching I wanted to make sure that the flank was secure. I walked out a bit further staying concealed as I checked things out a couple of hundred meters past our farthest position. At his point I saw a tall man in uniform waiting down a trail that could be a high speed avenue of approach. I took a position to surprise him and when he came in range I ordered him to drop his weapon and surrender, using some colorful euphemisms in the process.
The man didn’t stop and turned toward me and said: “Son, you can calm down, I’m Brigadier General Carpenter the Assistant Division Commander.” I had never met a General before and certainly never spoken to one in that manner, but General Carpenter took it in stride. As I popped smartly to attention and gave a snappy salute he introduced himself, asked my name and thanked me for my vigilance. With that he allowed me to lead him of a tour of the platoon’s positions and pass him off to our adjoining platoon whose platoon leader took him on from there. The company commander had a good laugh that evening as we met to plan our “withdraw under pressure” that would take place in the early morning hours.
So that is my connection with an Army legend and great man. However the fact that I had met Army’s “Lonely End” did not convert me to the cause. When I entered the Navy it was like coming home. My Army friends were almost always incredulous that I could root against the Black Knights of the Hudson.
Today’s victory against Army was not the blowout that I thought it would be though it easily could have been. However it paid an unexpected dividend in that it brought the UCLA Bruins to a Bowl Game. I can’t remember the last time they have been to a bowl game and their record was not very good this year either…I wonder how any team that 6-6 record rates going to a bowl, but heck if the University of Florida and Notre Dame can go why not UCLA?
Now Navy plays Missouri in the Texas Bowl on December 31st.