Sometimes it takes awhile to realize how lucky you are. When I played high school football, my father never missed a single game in four years. My four brothers also played high school football, and of all their games, he missed just one. Years later, he can tell you exactly which son’s game he missed, when it occurred and who the other team was.
It took me years to understand that this was more than just a show of dedication and support by my father. Seeing us play in these games really meant a ton to him, far beyond wins or losses or playing time.
So when I received the e-mail below from After Action special correspondent Maj. Roy Nickerson, it struck a nerve. You see, Maj. Nickerson is currently serving in Afghanistan with his unit in the 101st Airborne. Turns out his 15-year-old son, Alex, a punter and kicker for Adair County High School in Kentucky,was playing in his first varsity game last week. Roy Nickerson, obviously, was not able to see his son’s big moment.
It’s a harsh reality similar to what hundreds, if not thousands of deployed troops go through on a regular basis. While they’re out fighting the bad guys, they have to miss their daughter’s first day of kindergarten, their son’s first little league hit, their brother’s college graduation, or in Roy’s case, his son’s first varsity football game. It’s one of the many sacrifices deployed troops make for the rest of us — missing the moments in their family’s lives that we sometimes to take for granted.
But thanks to internet, the major had the next-best thing to actually being in Kentucky to see his son play: He was able to listen to a streamed broadcast of the game live online. Here’s Maj. Nickerson’s account, which perfectly tells the story of a proud father using technology to make the best of a tough situation:
“We berate technology when it stops working and subsequently our relatively convenient lives become a little harder. Tonight, though, technology by way of the internet allowed me to experience a little of my son’s high school football game. I woke early to listen to the Friday night matchup via streaming audio pumped out by the local radio station where he lives.
The broadcast was first-rate. The commentators were fantastic, obviously veterans of the local high school sports scene. They kept the analysis lively with personal stories and colorful anecdotes about the boys on the field and talked here and there about past heroes. The interspersed commercials advertising small-town restaurants, small-engine repair shops, and local banks reminded me of my youth growing up in Kentucky.
I closed my eyes and I was transported to a high school football field on a hot, muggy Friday night in Central Kentucky. I chewed my nails and imagined the folksy pageantry of the first game of the season versus a neighboring county rival. Through my headphones, I could faintly hear the rhythmic chants of the cheerleaders and the occasional yell of an angry father or a screeching complaint of a mother. I might as well have been sitting right next to them. I noted the boys my son is friends with, some of whom I’ve met, others I know only through their funny Facebook status updates and the pictures they post. Man, they get bigger every year!
Most of all, though, I thought about my son— a sophomore starting his first varsity football game. I wondered how nervous and excited he must have been despite his perpetually calm outward demeanor. I wondered if he realized I was there in the stands as proud as any of the other parents watching. Thank God for high school football. Thank Him even more for the internet to hear a game all the way in Afghanistan.”
For the record, Alex and his team won the opener 20-19.