The day I was drafted was the best day of my life. The day my best friend since kindergarten was drafted was the most heartbreaking day of our lives. I was drafted into the pro football league and my friend was drafted into the war. Ever since they had to start the draft back up we knew either of us could go at any time but we were sure neither of us would end up in the war that that hot-headed dictator ushered in. I went through the summer training camp and made the cut, he went to boot camp and was sent to battle.
The first pre-season game was upon us and many teams across the league were mad at the president for getting us into this war. Personally, I never blamed the President; I blamed the baby fat wacko on the other side of the world. So many teams and players decided they were going to protest the war and our President during the pre-game by taking a knee during the national anthem. Although I did not blame the president, I was outraged that my friend had to go to war so our team voted as a unit to show solidarity and unity. I, along with my teammates and coaches, took a knee during the national anthem. Once that was over the game was on.
I was listed as the second string linebacker, which meant I would not see any action until the second quarter. I watched both teams battle it out in a scoreless first quarter. The whistles blew signaling the end of the first quarter; it was finally my time to shine. As the second quarter started with our team on defense I trotted onto the field. My first play as a pro did not go as expected. The offense was in shotgun but I misread a run on the play. I jumped to early to stop the run and left the speedy slot receiver wide open across the middle of the field. He juked the safety and took off sixty yards to pay dirt. That was definitely not how I wanted to start my career.
On the other side of the world…
I was so excited for my best friend for making it as a pro football player. I knew that had been his dream since he started playing football in first grade. I was there with him at the draft. We did our little celebration dance when his name was called in the second round. He was with me when my name was selected for the army’s draft. He felt horrible that he was getting to play the game he loved while I had to go put my neck on the line for our country but I told him to make the most of his opportunity and most importantly to have fun doing it. I did not regret it one bit. I would proudly serve the greatest country in the world. I assured him I would be fine and when I got back home, we would celebrate his first season.
Today I was going to get my first taste of action. Ironically, this was the same day my buddy was getting to see his first action on the field too. As my unit approached the DMZ line rockets and machine gun fire were exploding all around us. The noise was horrendous but the bodies being torn to bits all around me were images I would never forget. I witnessed several members of my unit being blown apart as missiles cascaded down on us. Some of the missiles were close enough to me that I could feel the resulting heat from the explosions.
As we made it across the DMZ and officially entered into enemy territory, my unit had already been cut in half. Shrapnel was jutting out of my arm but the adrenaline kept me moving forward. My unit became separated into smaller units as we crossed into enemy territory. There were only ten of us in my group. We pressed on as we tried to contact the rest of our unit. We were getting bogged down by much larger groups of enemy soldiers. Somehow, the enemy had surrounded us. As we quickly dug trenches for cover, the enemy continued to close in on my group. We were scared but we kept digging and fighting. The deafening sound of jets, missiles and machine gun fire engulfed us as we held our position hoping for some reinforcements but the radios were silent.
Back in the U.S…
It was the fourth quarter and we were locked in a tied game with just two minutes left. I was back on the field with my defense. This was our moment to shine. The quarterback took the snap and lofted one down field but it fell incomplete. The next play the quarterback faked the handoff, I almost took the bait again but instead jumped back into position just as the quarterback launched the ball across the middle of the field. I reached up and yanked the ball out of the air. Forty yards later I was in the end zone doing a little dance because I had just scored the game winning touchdown.
The celebration after the game was something to cherish. It was just a preseason game but the excitement at the end carried over until late into the night. After the celebration, I went home to crash out. My first game had drained me of every ounce of energy I had. As I laid down I noticed my phone was flashing to notify me I had a missed call. I looked to see who it was. It was my mom calling so I decided to check the message and if it was important I would call her right back.
I knew this was not just a pleasant congratulations call when I heard the sadness in her voice right from the beginning of the message. She told me hundreds of enemy soldiers had surrounded my friend’s squad and, although they fought valiantly, every one of them had been killed in action. I was heartbroken, distraught to the point of inconsolability. While I had been celebrating a victory on the field playing some game, my best friend was being surrounded by the enemy, heavily outnumbered, fighting for his life, fighting for our rights, fighting for our freedom. A battle which he lost. My world stopped in its tracks. While I was protesting this war and this president and this country, my friend gave his life to protect us at home so we would never have to know the horrors of war at home. I was embarrassed, actually just down right appalled by mine and the rest of the countries actions. We never have had to fear war on the home front because of these brave men and women but we were showing utter disrespect towards them in our so-called protest. From that moment on, I knew I would never take a knee again, I knew I would never let my teammates take a knee again. I would proudly show my pride in our brave men and women who fight to protect us every single day, many of whom give their lives for our freedoms we hold so sacred. My friend will be greatly missed but when the war is over, he will be known as hero who gave his life on the frontlines to protect our way of life at home.