Two Nebraska officers recall Army-Navy football game history

Before the the Army-Navy Football Game some members of the Army and Navy get together and play...
Before the the Army-Navy Football Game some members of the Army and Navy get together and play tug-of-war.(10/11 NOW)
Published: Dec. 10, 2022 at 5:17 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The Army and Naval academies fought on the football field in Philadelphia this Saturday. The game has a rich history, one that two current officers in the Nebraska Army National Guard were part of.

About two decades ago, the two men, who now call Lincoln home, suited up on the field: one wearing an Army uniform and the other wearing a Navy uniform.

”They call it America’s game for a reason,” said Captain Jason Jackson, a JAG officer--or lawyer--with the Nebraska Army National Guard.

According to Capt. Jackson and Lieutenant Colonel Richard Greenwood, Jackson got his stripes at the Naval academy and eventually joined the National Guard, and Greenwood went to the army academy. They squared off against each other a couple of times as rivals.

”Jason and I were fortunate enough to play in the 100th anniversary in 1999,” Greenwood, the Nebraska Army National Guard inspector general, said. “December 4. It was kind of special for us.”

In part, it’s the thunder of the crowd: thousands of cadets from each academy man the sides in a stadium much larger than the usual academy game. It’s also the fanfare: many presidents, stretching all the way back to Theodore Roosevelt in 1901, have attended.

And so much rides on the outcome.

”The navy game is the culminating, ‘We must win this game to have a successful season,’” Greenwood said. “We could go 13-0 and lose that game, and we would be absolute failures. It’s the hardest fought game I’ll have ever experienced in my football career.”

Cleats on turf may not be boots on the ground, but playing on the football field can sharpen some skills needed on the battlefield.

”There’s always the sense of awareness about what that means and how the football field is preparing these young athletes to be future combat leaders,” Jackson said.

Overall, what stuck with Greenwood and Jackson the most came after the game, when the hard fought fight fell away in the rearview mirror.

”What makes the game so special is that immediately after the game, they take the football uniform off, put their service uniform on,” Jackson said. “And we’re comrades in arms, defending our nation.”