Hampton football relishes opportunity to visit Traveling Vietnam Memorial
Football games often are spoken of metaphorically as a battle, but there is no real comparison when it comes to war.
The Hampton football team had a unique opportunity to pay tribute to the fallen when the Traveling Vietnam Memorial arrived in Allison Park last week.
Coach Jacque DeMatteo and his staff accompanied the team to Hampton Township Community Park after a workout July 3.
“I just thought it'd be a great opportunity to take our players,” DeMatteo said. “To go and visit and learn about the history of our country and potentially some relatives that fought in the war.”
The time spent looking at more than 58,000 names etched into the monument impressed the players.
“It was definitely a good thing to do as a team that brought the players and coaches together on a level higher than just football,” senior Jasen Simon said. “It kind of brought everyone together and gave them something they could relate to.”
The wall, which is 80 percent the size of the actual monument in Washington, D.C., is the largest such traveling memorial for the Vietnam War in the United States.
“It was really interesting,” senior Jack Bish said. “A lot of players were able to relate, having family members on the wall. Hearing stories from people who volunteered there about Vietnam … we were really able to put things in perspective, how brutal it was.”
It had special meaning for Simon, who plans to attend the Air Force Academy in the fall. His father and grandfather served in the military. In particular, the senior two-way lineman liked the team-building aspect of the trip.
“Even if someone isn't the best football player, everyone felt included. It was really good to see how the players reacted. Everyone was super respectful.”
Said DeMatteo, who has two uncles who served in Vietnam, as well as his father, a U.S. Army Veteran, who served in World War II: “It was very humbling, to put it in one word.”
“To see how our forefathers and relatives stood up for our country, and have our kids actually see that, puts things in perspective about what we do for a living and how we live our lives. I just thought it was a great experience for not only the players but the adults and coaches alike.”
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.