I was sitting with Coach John Barnett at a Thomson High baseball game a few Saturdays ago when I told him I may have to leave the game early. I have a cousin from Lincoln County in the Army who had been stationed in Korea and was home on leave for a couple of weeks. His family was having a supper for him that evening before he returned to his next assignment at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Coach Barnett mentioned to me that he had just received an e-mail from one of his former players, Marcus Parker, who is also stationed at Fort Campbell. Marcus played for the Bulldogs in the early 1990s, and he was a linebacker for Coach Barnett. Marcus was not a monster physical specimen, but was a very coachable young man that tried his best to do what Coach Barnett taught him on the field. It is no surprise to me that he has become a career Army man, and I'll bet a darned good one.
My cousin, Mark Saggus, Jr., was also a high school football player for the Red Devils. He was an offensive lineman with good size that once had a chance to possibly play for a small college. He hurt his leg in an auto accident and missed part of his senior season. I think Mark was more interested in football than college anyway so he decided to join the Army.
Mark's dad told me that "Little Mark" fully expected to be deployed to Iraq soon after his arrival at Fort Campbell. Mark, Sr., shared with me that in a private moment his son had shared with him that he wasn't crazy, but he actually wanted to go to Iraq. His thoughts were that he shouldn't be serving in the Army during a war and not go to where the fighting was. He wanted to show that he was not afraid to do what he had volunteered to do.
My wife's hometown newspaper, The Millen News, lists all those from Jenkins County that are currently serving in the military and their assignments. Among those in that list is one 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, Arnold Mosley. I coached Arnold at Jenkins County High School in the early 1980s where he played center and linebacker. He must be about 38 years old now. Like Marcus Parker and Mark Saggus, Jr., Arnold wasn't a killer on the football field, but he had a yes sir, no sir attitude that indicated he would do his best to do whatever it took to succeed. I'm not surprised that Arnold holds the rank that he does today in the Air Force.
These three men have nothing in common except they are serving our country in the military and they played high school football, although in three different decades and three different places. When they played football they were disciplined and willing to follow a coach's directives. Now they are in a position where discipline and following orders is the routine in every single day of their lives.
I guess what I'm getting at is that I'll bet high school athletics have paved the way for many other young men that have made the military into a career. On a team, one has to be willing to make sacrifices for the good of the team and trust his leaders. No, playing a ball game is not like a real war, but the preparation is similar. You'd better accept being told what to do or your team and your military career might end up like the infamous Mexican army.
My point today may be more about politics than sports but Marcus Parker, Mark Saggus and Arnold Mosley are teaching us quite a lesson. The next time you feel like complaining about the publicity and money that goes to athletics think of these three. The next time you feel like complaining about the price of an unnecessary war think of these three. They all three volunteered for football and the military. They clearly have a common thread inside of them that only they can understand. That thread could not possibly be carrying a price tag.