When the Army West Point Football team takes the field, they do so not just for themselves.
As they face their opponents on the gridiron, the cadets from West Point play for their school, the Army and their country. Each week during the regular season, not counting the Army-Navy Game in December, they also play for and honor an active-duty Army division by wearing that division’s emblem on the back of their helmets.
“Honestly, I think it means a lot being able to represent the people in arms who are fighting for our country,” senior captain Darnell Woolfolk said. “It means a lot for our team and it means a lot for everybody in the Army around the nation. I think it brings us closer and means we are fighting for something that is bigger than ourselves.”
During the Aug. 31 season opener at Duke, the Army West Point Football team honored the “All-American” division, the 82nd Airborne Division, which is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, located about an hour and a half from Duke University. The 82nd’s red, white and blue “AA” shoulder patch was worn on the back of the Army helmet adjacent to an emblem honoring Brandon Jackson, an Army West Point cornerback who died in a car accident in 2016 and would have been a Firstie this year.
“We are honored to see the All-American patch proudly displayed on the West Point helmets,” Maj. Gen. James J. Mingus, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said.
The 82nd Airborne Division was founded in 1917 and is recognized as one the premier light infantry units in the U.S. Army. Along with the emblem worn on their helmets, each week the team learned the history of the division and used it as a way to motivate themselves going into game day.
“We always have something that goes along with them,” Woolfolk said of how they honor the division each week. “I think our media does a great job of pushing that out so everybody actually knows about it. I think that is one of the biggest things they always do, really telling us what each division has done and how we are going to represent them each week.”
Army lost to Duke 34-14.