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Rival Fans, The Game and a Promise Remembered

Nov. 1, 2012

by Lt. Kolbe Grell
United States Marines

Back in September 2010, I spent my down time cleaning my rifle and talking college football with Marines in my platoon. You see, all we could do in Sangin, Afghanistan, was talk football since we were without any communication to the “real world.” We were lucky to find enough electricity to charge our radio batteries much less find a football game to watch. Can you believe they make people deploy during football season? I know, me neither; it’s like getting married during football season, it’s just not meant to be.

Cpl. Chris MontgomeryLima Company, 3rd Platoon got over this catastrophic issue by talking smack about who had the best team, and who was going to win our mythical national championship game.

I caught it from all angles with a platoon full of Texas Longhorn fans, a Nebraska Cornhusker fan, a UCLA Bruin fan, and an Auburn Tigers fan. I’m a former student of Texas A&M University, and I never heard the end of it. “Sir, what’s the Aggies all-time record against the Longhorns?” “Sir, y’all don’t stand a chance in the SEC.”

The Auburn Tigers fan was Cpl. Christopher Montgomery, one of my favorite Marines to have a conversation with since there was talk of Texas A&M making the jump to the SEC. If you don’t remember, 2010 was the year of Cam Newton. The same Cam Newton that won the Heisman trophy and propelled Auburn to a BCS National Championship over the Oregon Ducks.

I didn’t Lt. Kolbe Grellet to watch that game. But unfortunately for Cpl. Montgomery, he did. He was wounded by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on Dec. 7 and was medically evacuated back to the United States, where he watched the national championship from his hospital bed.

That day, so many things changed Cpl. Montgomery’s life, but it didn’t change the promise that we made to each other. During one of our many college football conversations, we agreed that if Texas A&M entered the SEC, we would go to the first game with each other. Texas A&M officially entered the SEC on July 1, 2012, and when the 2012 schedules came out, I made sure that Cpl. Montgomery knew that we were going to the game on Oct. 27.

I didn’t know much about Jordan-Hare Stadium, so I contacted Josiah Greene, a current student at Auburn University, to inquire about the best handicap seat in the house. Greene answered my question but told me to wait to purchase tickets, and that he might be able to help me out. Greene got a hold of Jana Tarleton, a former student of Auburn University and Director of Gameday for Heroes. With the help of both Auburn University and Texas A&M University, they organized a weekend that Cpl. Montgomery and I will never forget.

Gameday for Heroes is a non-profit organization that provides college football tickets to veterans and active duty military members. It receives donated tickets from generous donors so a veteran can enjoy a gameday experience first-hand.

The surprises didn’t end with a pair of tickets to the game. There was more than $1,600 donated by both Auburn and A&M fans to cover travel expenses, a complimentary room at the Auburn University Hotel, sideline passes, and personalized jerseys. Oh yeah, we also were honorary captains for the game, which allowed us to participate in the coin toss.

I knew the SEC was made up of great football teams, but what I didn’t know was that great people complimented it. We won’t be able to thank each person individually, but to all of you who support our Wounded Warriors and veterans, we thank you.

Gig ‘Em and War Eagle!



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