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Very few players at Lincoln Financial Field this year will be playing in the hopes of gaining fame and fortune in the NFL, as many will be ending their football careers to fulfill their military duties as soon as they graduate. All players, however, are being fueled by an intense devotion to the game and their academy.
This commitment to the institutions of the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy places each Cadet or Midshipman within an astounding line of predecessors. West Point’s legacy stretches literally from our nation's founders, as George Washington worked to establish it as a military base in 1778 and Thomas Jefferson signed the legislation in 1802 that turned the base into an academy. The home of West Point’s principal designer, Tadeusz Kościuszko, still stands at 3rd & Pine streets in Philadelphia. The Naval School, later the Academy, was founded in 1845 by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft. The campus was established at Annapolis on the grounds of the former U.S. Army post Fort Severn.
It only takes one listen to the stadium roar and one glance at the sea of uniforms to realize how much the academies are devoted to their players. Though more serious duties are never far off, for the short time that Army and Navy face each other on the gridiron there is little else that matters. Rivalry and camaraderie become closely intertwined, and one can’t help but be proud of this competitive yet unified event of mutual respect. On the field, the game is fought with great intensity, but at the final whistle there are respectful handshakes and reverence instead of wild celebrations. The opponents become brothers again, teammates in the battle to protect our country and our freedom.