Sweet Home Alabama, The Army-Navy Game & Southern Patriotism

Sweet Home Alabama & the Army-Navy Game: a story of a decades-old military academy rivalry coupled with good, old-fashioned Southern Patriotism.

About 9 or so years ago, the Army decided that I should be medically retired due to some nefarious crud that had infiltrated my pulmonary system, likely from one of the many Iraqi oilfield fires. The Army was very gracious. After 37 years of service, they worked out a pretty fair trade. The Army would get to keep a chunk of my right lung and I in turn, would escape its clutches to a life of ease—or at least a life where nobody was shooting at me, which is always a plus.

Deciding where to plant my guidon for the winter of my life proved to be easier than I would have imagined. During my final assignment & before being hospitalized, I was the Chief of Staff to the Commanding General of the World’s Mightiest Military Logistics Headquarters. In that position, I did a lot of official travel along the I-20 corridor.

Whenever I happened to be traveling in uniform and stopped for gas in the great state of Alabama, it proved well nigh impossible for me to purchase my own coffee. I mean, folks would actually have words, over who would have the “privilege” of buying a Soldier a cup of joe.

Naw Bill. You bought fur the last Soldier Boy come through here. It’s MY turn. <puts arm around my shoulder, shoves coffee cup into my hand> “How’s the war goin’ son?” Just. Like. That.

I decided that I really liked this place and these people. So, I consulted with Her Royal Majesty, Queen Teresa and with Her Majesty’s approval, we purchased a little cottage on the lake near Talladega (Ricky Bobby!). We were in hog heaven.

For the first 60 days or so, we were filled with the excitement of making Alabama our new home. One thing that continually amazed us was the enthusiastic patriotism of the citizens of our chosen abode. Quite often, ARMY friends of ours would query us as to how we liked being “Alabamans by choice.” We’d regale them with stories of just how patriotic these Alabama folk were—and they really are…Americana at its finest.

Army-Navy GameAlabamans are so patriotic that almost everyone here supports the ARMY-West Point Football team. Of course, as a Class of 1980 Graduate of that World Class institution, I am naturally drawn to such folk. Point of fact (or so I thought) there were so many Black Knights supporters, that they had divided themselves into two factions. One camp had as their symbol a “Roman A” overlaid (for some strange reason) on a “U.” The other faction had as their symbol, a “Cursive A.” For no apparent reason, these two groups of patriotic Americans actually hated each other.

Army-Navy GameI mean it was almost as bad as the Sunnis and the Shia in Southwest Asia. One late Saturday morning, Her Majesty and I were sitting in a little Rib Joint called, “The Shack.” It was filled with a bunch of folks wearing red shirts with white “Cursive A’s” on them, all obviously ARMY Team supporters. It was normally a quiet place. But this Saturday, it was packed to the gills. The “Cursive A” folks were all excited about what appeared to be a new menu item at the Shack; something called, “Iron Bowl.”  

Anyhow, in walks this dude wearing a “Roman A” shirt. I swear it was just like one of them old Westerns; you know, where the guy walks into the bar full of bad guys…and the piano stops playing and chairs get pushed back. I’m telling you, that fella was lucky to make it out alive, much less with an order of ribs.

This kind of thing bothered me for quite a while—until it came time to register vehicles and get my first Alabama Driver’s License. Very easy process, especially for a Veteran. I believe I’ve mentioned how patriotic these folks are, right?

So, I fill out all the forms while chatting up the very nice young lady behind the counter. However, just as we are about to go over to get the de-rigueur mug shot, the mystery of the feuding A’s was suddenly resolved, as that nice lady said, “Colonel, before we go any further, you’ve got to declare.” With some trepidation, likely due to some of the “nonstandard” behaviors now not only tolerated, but downright encouraged by today’s Army, I tentatively responded, “Declare what?” Pulling out yet another form she responded, “Auburn or Alabama?

Army-Navy Game
Alabama Department of Transportation Form: 1

Ahhhh. At that point, it all finally made sense, especially the Showdown at The Shack. I politely asked the sweet young lady if I could choose another team besides Auburn or Alabama. Suddenly and inexplicably turning cold in her demeanor, she hissed, “Yes,” spitting out, “but only with a waiver.” I pulled out my DD214 and boldly stated, “I would like to declare for the ARMY-West Point Football Team!”

Immediately, her demeanor softened. She stamped “APPROVED” on the form with a flourish—and with that, we were off for the mug shot. Upon handing me my license, the lovely young lady bid me farewell with a heartfelt, “Welcome to Alabama, Colonel. Beat Navy!

Sweet Home Alabama Indeed.

Editor’s Note: More so than The Super Bowl, the Army-Navy classic is truly America’s football game. Two groups of patriotic American warriors in training, meet every year to duke it out on the “fields of friendly strife.” But, as hard fought as that game is and despite the inter-service jibes going back and forth in the weeks leading up to it, upon graduation, these great Americans will serve together in harm’s way, united as one team in defending this great thing we call, These United States of America.


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10 thoughts on “Sweet Home Alabama, The Army-Navy Game & Southern Patriotism”

  1. Wonderful post, Mike. You nailed the Army-Navy classic. The Army-Navy game was THE GAME in our house when I was growing up. It got pretty heated. My dad was a Navy vet, and his brother (my uncle) was an Army vet–both having served in WW II–my dad during the invasion of Okinawa aboard an LST and my uncle during the Normandy invasion and then to the bridge at Remagen, where he was wounded. My brother and I always wondered what the fuss was all about. Then, years later, I served four years in the Army, and my brother did three years in the Navy. So guess what? Suddenly the Army-Navy took on new significance for us, and it remained that way until my brother passed away in 2015. So, today I will root for the Black Knights, and I know the ghost of my brother will be next to me urging the Middies on. Go Army!

  2. To put one’s self in harms way for the sake of their country is respectable, but for many decades now very ignorant of the forces that have taken over America a long time ago. As General Smedley Butler, USMC, said…. “War is a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense (deaths) of the masses.” My country, Virginia (see Bouvier’s Law Dictionary 1868), was destroyed in 1865 and has been under martial law (proof is before your eyes) ever since. ““While the union survived the civil war, the Constitution did not.” First black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, delivered in a bicentennial speech at Maui, Hawaii on 6 May 1987.” The insane elevation of football in our society and the corresponding salaries was PLANNED over 100 years ago by Communists and recorded in the Congressional Record. This fact, NEVER DEBUNKED, is visible in almost every single AD or program in the media today….. “We must realize that our party’s most powerful weapon is racial tension by propounding into the consciousness of the dark races that for centuries they have been oppressed by the whites. We can mold them to the program of the communist party. In America we will aim for subtle victory while inflaming the negro minority against the whites. We will instill into the whites a guilt complex for their exploitation of the negro. We will aid the negro’s rise to prominence in every walk of life, in the professions and in the world of SPORTS and entertainment. With this prestige (money), the negro will be able to intermarry with the whites and will begin a process which will deliver America into our cause.” Israel Cohen (Edomite) – head of the communist party in England “A Racial Program For The Twentieth Century” (1912) Congressional Record, Vol. 103, p. 8559, June 7, 1957.
    descendant of George Washington & Robert E. Lee

  3. Great post. For 30 years as a political activist in the formerly soveriegn Commonwealth of Virginia, I’ve said, “We get the best Yankees” down in Tidewater, Virginia. Ex-military, Christian, capitalist, anti-socialism, etc. More truth than poetry. Not so much in NoVa and Richmond.

    My Plan B after retirement was Huntsville, AL. Been there on business a number of times. Alabama is still the South. That means “home” to me. As I write so often to distraction, “Culture Commands.” The South’s culture (includes distinct accents and sub-cultures like Tidewater, Appalachian, Cajun, Deep South, Texan, etc.) is based on the evolved ideas of the American Revolution. The vast area influenced by the Scot-Irish frontier culture is family x3, faith, and freeedom. Live and let live. Until you threaten my family, faith, or freedom. Then, it’s war without limits.

    Glad you have a home.

  4. A lot of the reason I believe the Communists attacked Richmond, Va’s “Monument Avenue” is because of what those statues were really intended for: McKinley wanted to celebrate the South’s contributions to the Military during the Spanish American War. It wasn’t just about Lee, Jackson, Stuart, it was about how the South regionally contributes more personnel to the Armed Forces over any other region of the Country. They want the South to forget its level of service “for Country”.

  5. Folks in Alabama are wonderful people, and so are the folks in Mississippi and Louisiana, when it comes to loving America and respecting those who were and are military. I’m glad that you and the Queen settled in this patriotic section of America…the Deep South. But here in my home area, it’s all Purple and Gold. Neither “A” has much of a following, but wearers of the first letter are often asked, “You from around here?”

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