Letter to the Editor: Locals make Team U.S.A.
Thank you for publishing the article, "Benedick, Houtman play for gold medal U.S. grid squad" in your paper on Friday, July 18. As excited as I was to share the triumph of Team U.S.A. and my son Berry Benedick, I was saddened that the real victory was what occurred off the field which was not told through the article. But then again when you scramble to please a proud parent, the real story is missed.
Through this experience, Berry has made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Just the players alone had very memorable stories. The player who lost his brother and cousin to a gang-related death while the team was in Kuwait. The player who was playing for gold to bring peace and closure to his family who's dad was killed in Iraq during a tour of duty. And then the player who decided there was no greater honor but to play for his country and was hanging up his football cleats for good. This fall when many of these players line up on opposite sides of the field in their hearts, they know they are all on one team, Team U.S.A.
In a world that gives us such negative images of the Middle East, the people of Kuwait went above and beyond to make these players and coaches feel safe. The Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Al-Mishaal, greeted Team U.S.A. as they arrived in Kuwait. Team U.S.A. experienced firsthand the holy month of Ramadan. Hats off to the coaches and players of all eight countries for respecting the Muslim people by not eating or drinking in public, no wearing of headphones in public and making sure they were dressed appropriately. Kudos to Kuwait for keeping all of the players and coaches safe and showing the world they are capable of hosting an international sporting event successfully.
The memories that will stay with this team the most are those of the brave men and women who protect our country every day. Team U.S.A. had the honor of visiting the U.S. Military Base, "The Rock," just outside of Kuwait City. They experienced firsthand a platoon deploying for service. They had the pleasure of dining with servicemen from all of the U.S. Berry had dinner with a soldier from Kansas who was unable to share with his family where his location was. There was the military medic who Berry sat by on the flight home from Kuwait who was heading home for a month, just to be deployed for eight months on her return to the Middle East. Last, but not least the pep talk during half time of the gold medal game when the U.S. trailed Canada 12-14, by the commander of "The Rock" who inspired Team U.S.A. to play for something greater than themselves. In true military fashion, the commander spent the second half of the game on the sidelines with the coaches and players not letting up until victory was in hand.
My hope is that as the school year begins and sports get underway, that the media, parents, coaches and players don't lose sight that it is not always about winning, but about the people you meet along the way. Get to know them for their story. I'm the first to admit it's always better to be on the winning side, but there is so much more to a game than winning. Most importantly let's not forget the men and women who sacrifice their lives everyday to give us the opportunity to play the "sport" we love.
Within hours of Team U.S.A. winning gold, former MHS football coach, Jay Eilers, posted several pictures on Facebook of several members of Team U.S.A. with their gold medals, with the quote, "It's not about the scoreboard, it's about the relationships." It is the relationships and memories that make any journey golden.
May God bless the U.S.A. and keep those who protect us safe.
-- Lori Benedick, Marshall