Why this year I will watch the World Cup

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Legion Trust me, not because I love soccer. All things being equal, I'd rather not watch soccer.  It has to rank fairly low in terms of sporting events I would watch on TV.  There's not a Sox, Pats, Umass Basketball or Yale Lacrosse game I would ever miss on TV.  There's also not a single soccer game I WOULD watch.  Until this year.  And it's only because I want to see what effect John McHugh has on the team.  John isn't on the roster, so don't bother looking. ESPN author Jeff Bradley tells us about John McHugh:
From Church Basketball (he played for St. Al's, I played for Caldwell Presbyterian) to soccer camp in the summer, to watching our older brothers play American Legion baseball together, to the day when he and I learned as freshman we had made the Legion team. We warmed the bench together and loved every minute of being a part of the Post 185 squad. A year later, in 1980, we both got our chance to play...two years later, we were part of a team that won the Essex County championship and came within a game of winning the state title. As seniors, we won another county title, but John missed out on the post-season as he had to report to West Point to begin his life as a cadet. Without John as our backstop, our team was not the same. He was a catcher in baseball...a goalkeeper in soccer. He was a born leader. John went on to play goalkeeper at West Point. He loved soccer with all his heart. He was a great goalkeeper because he was a student of the position. Always in position, head always in the game.
I don't want to take the entire post, so please be sure to go read it. But, let's look at another person who knew John, our own John Donovan who does our MOH posts. He lists Colonel John McHugh's military record:
Colonel John McHugh graduated in 1986 from the United States Military Academy and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in Army Aviation. Following the Rotary Wing (Flight School) and UH -60 Aviator courses, COL McHugh was stationed in Nurnberg, Germany with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR). He served as a platoon leader with S Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd ACR and deployed to Operation Desert Strom as the Regimental Aviation Officer.
Unfortunately, we also get this:
Colonel McHugh commanded one of the Operations Groups for BCTP. He was killed in a massive vbied explosion while doing what we call a "right-seat ride-along" with the 10th Mountain in Afghanistan.
From a NJ.com article:
Army Col. John McHugh would talk about the World Cup often with his fellow soldiers, and every chance he had, he would make it clear his interest went beyond his love of soccer. “I know our coach,” he would brag. He was headed to Afghanistan, but he would find a way to watch the Americans take on the world. He was headed to war, but that wouldn’t stop the West Caldwell native from cheering on an old friend. That coach was standing near the field in Princeton Saturday, talking about the deeply personal reminder of the responsibility facing his team in 18 days. Bob Bradley received an e-mail with the news before a practice last week, one that stopped the always-moving coach cold. Just days after arriving in the war-torn country, McHugh was killed when a suicide bomber rammed a car filled with a half-ton of explosives into his NATO convoy. Bradley’s friend, a husband and father of five who had recently become a grandfather, was gone. He was 46.
The end of the NJ.com piece by Steve Politi is rather poignant:
The World Cup will unfold with the world at war, and Bradley will not let his players forget who they are also playing for next month. For the servicemen and women, past and present, fighting to protect what the Stars-and-Stripes crest on their uniform represents. For the soldiers here and abroad, the ones who can watch and the ones who cannot. For John McHugh.
I actually hadn't seen that article prior to starting to write this post, but that was exactly what I was thinking when I decided to watch the games. I really hope the US does well, not because of any love of soccer, but rather because Col McHugh loved it, and a win would seem to be a good way to remember him. I generally try to stay away from religious topics since the comments go in both directions, but in this case, I would like to include one of the last facebook statuses that Col McHugh had:
"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:6-7."
You can join the memorial facebook page for Col John McHugh by clicking here. RIP Colonel, and enjoy the games.
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I remember very vividly the staggering number of New Englanders in our unit when MOTHAX and I went to Afghanistan back in '04. The common thread between all of them was that of course, this would be the year the Sox finally won the Series because none of them were home to see it. The efforts they wetn through to stay connected to their sport during that time is still pretty indelible.

In the end, the connection that sports make as a touchstone to home is pretty powerful. Good story, it's as good a reason as any to watch World Cup. I'm not a huge soccer fan myself, but I still watch World Cup anyway because anything writ large on the international stage is compelling in sports, at least in my experience...that's how I wind up watching curling every four years.

This just gives another angle for watching the games.

I hate that the US lost to Ghana..It really hurts..but there is always 2014

Great story!

RIP Col. McHugh.

I usually dont watch soccer either but I will try to watch a U.S. match this year.

Paraguay advances into the quarter finals of the World Cup! Who would have thought so?

What a great game, I can't believe Ghana did that.

I can't believe what happened with Ghana today. That was totally neat!

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.