Army game at Fort Benning takes veterans down memory lane

benw@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 10, 2012 

Bob Rudesill, a 1960 West Point graduate, played for the 1958 undefeated Army football team.

Friday, he made the trip to Fort Benning to watch the 2012 preview of the Black Knights as Army played its spring game off campus for the first time.

A veteran of two tours in Vietnam, Rudesill said the game was a great opportunity for the community.

“We are really pleased at the opportunity to have the game down here,” he said. “The commanding general did a great job in making it happen. The NCAA doesn’t approve of the team playing the spring game off campus. This is a great thing.”

And it was a full house at Doughboy Stadium that saw the squad representing Armor defeat the Infantry 20-14.

But, for Rudesill it was a walk down memory lane. He remembered his 1958 Army team that went 8-0-1 and finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press rankings.

“We finished high in the ranking,” said Rudesill, a former quarterback on the team.

The event gave Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and a 1981 graduate of West Point, a signature event.

The walls of the stadium were filled with messages from Gen. George S. Patton, who commanded the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Benning in the 1940s, and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, a former assistant coach of the Doughboys football team in 1926 and president of the United States.

“I have always loved watching football,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Rick Hairston, who served two tours in Iraq with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. “With this being the first time West Point has played the spring game here, it is actually a pleasure. I can watch football every day.”

Hairston, of Smiths Station, Ala., said the game gave people a look at future leaders in the Army.

“They will go from playing to leading,” said Hairston, camped outside the stadium with a group of contract coworkers. “These guys are going to be leading soldiers.”

Wearing a gold jersey with the No. 66, Kristen Pirog was supporting her husband and West Point graduate, Lt. Col. John, who is at Fort Irwin, Calif., for a month of training with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

Pirog took advantage of the early release from school by bringing their daughters, Ellie and Molly.

“I think this is just wonderful, a really neat experience,” she said.

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