Freedom is Never Free!

It’s November 11, which means that here in the States, we’re observing our national holiday to recognize veterans of the armed forces – the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.

At the end of October, I received this incredible email at work:

Saturday, November 8th ASU is hosting Notre Dame at 1:30 p.m.  With a desire to honor all of our veterans at ASU, a limited number of tickets have been made available for our veteran faculty and staff. You served with honor, now we honor you. Thank you for your service!

This came from the Salute to Service committee out of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, a wonderful campus and community resource for veterans and their dependents at ASU. November 3-14 had been designated as “Salute to Service” week – a week of events with focus on military appreciation built around Pat Tillman’s birthday, November 6, and today, Veteran’s Day, November 11. With this, ASU celebrates the entire week as a way to honor vets and Pat Tillman in continuing his legacy as a heroic Sun Devil and pro football star who sacrificed his life in serving our country.

 

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Callaghan was especially excited about the opportunity to go to Saturday’s game against Notre Dame because he’d never been to a college football game before. Coming from France, he had no real concept of the importance or spirit of athletics at the American university (there’s no equivalent of it over there – no collegiate athletics programs, no mascots, no school colors, no marching bands, no cheerleaders or rivalries or tail-gate parties or events like homecoming or play-offs, etc.), but he had heard all the stories. I mean, he knew about it, but he’d never experienced it.

Man, did he get a first-class education in American college football spirit on Saturday! We walked down to the stadium – the joy of living downtown will never fade – where he dipped his virgin toe into the traditional institution of American college football. His foray turned out to be more of a head-first dive straight into the insanity that was Sun Devil Stadium that day. The game against legendary and well-seated Notre Dame proved to be a phenomenal, exciting, well-fought battle on Frank Kush field (55-31 ASU, final).

As you can imagine, the Sun Devils’ victory parlayed into an outrageous all-night party at the many bars, clubs and restaurants up and down Mill Avenue, the main street of Tempe.

Later that night, the passionate and gracious Notre Dame fans we spotted on Mill stood out in their navy and gold gear as they took in the chaos of the festivities with wide eyes. It was like a UFO had deposited the Fighting Irish fans in downtown Tempe, and they had no idea where they were. We saw them wandering slowly down the street in their unseasonal-to-them shorts and t-shirts, looking around with dazed expressions, and maybe it was just me, but I didn’t think they were thinking, damn, we lost, so much as, damn, now we have to get on the plane and go back to freezing Indiana. Because that’s what I would have been thinking, if I were them. (Aside: I’m certain that Arizona gets some of its transplants because people decide to move here after visiting from their cold places to support their teams playing the Sun Devils in sunny Tempe. It got up to 90 degrees that day. Callaghan and I were in long-sleeve t-shirts because we wanted to avoid getting farmers’ tans, but most people were in regular t-shirts or tank tops and shorts. You can generally get away with that year-round out here.)

Here are some pics from Saturday:

 

Tickets to the game. Thank you, Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Salute to Service committee!

Tickets to the game. Thank you, Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Salute to Service committee!

 

Entering Sun Devil territory. Fear the Fork!

Entering Sun Devil territory. Fear the Fork!

 

Sun Devil Stadium is built into the cactus-studded "A" Butte at the north end of the Tempe campus.

Sun Devil Stadium is built into the cactus-studded “A” Butte at the north end of the Tempe campus.

 

Score!

Score!

 

The game aired on ABC.

The game aired on ABC.

 

The Sun Devils played an enormous game. The spirit of Pat Tillman was with us, and we veterans in the crowd were recognized.

The Sun Devils played an enormous game. The spirit of Pat Tillman was with us, and we veterans in the crowd were recognized.

 

This brings us to today, a day off, and, most importantly, a day to remember and reflect with gratitude. Happy Veteran’s Day, and to all of you vets out there, thank you for your service!

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