-Courtesy, Tom Dienhart, Rivals.com
Harvard coach Tim Murphy is part of 2010 Coaches Tour that is being put on by the USO/Morale Entertainment/Armed Forces Entertainment.
The Tour made its first stop in Germany, where Murphy and fellow coaches Chip Kelly of Oregon, Ron Zook of Illinois and Rich Ellerson of Army visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. (Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville was scheduled to go on the Tour, but he had to have surgery last week on a pinched nerve in his neck and was unable to travel.) LRMC is the largest military hospital outside of the continental United States and is the facility where soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan first are taken. The coaches visited with patients at the hospital, as well as at an adjacent USO.
Here are the thoughts of Murphy, set to enter his 17th season as coach of the Crimson.
Never having been on this type of trip, meeting with these types of people, I can't say I knew what to expect.
I guess I thought I would be inspired by the people that I met, probably more so than they would be by me. I say that because I always have had a very profound respect for the military. Part of that is because I am an amateur historian, and part of it is because I have had family members serve. I also have had many, many of my players go on to serve in the Army, Marine Corps and the Navy and Air Force. In fact, I have a kid who just graduated in '09 who is a Marine Corps officer who is getting ready to be deployed to Afghanistan.
This is a very, very small way for me to support those people and let them know how much we appreciate the sacrifice they are making for us.
The thing that so impressed me about the patients we saw at Landstuhl was their resiliency. It is so impressive to see someone who is seriously, seriously injured coming from a very traumatic situation, yet his or her professionalism and resiliency shines through. They want to get back into the fight.
It would be great for me to have my players come over and see what these people are made of to give them some perspective to see how fortunate they are in life. And the medical people who support them - the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force - at Landstuhl were incredibly professional, caring and empathetic. I know if I was a patient, I certainly would appreciate their work.
When I get back, I will tell my players that if they think they had a bad day, they really haven't had a bad day. They've had a great day, compared to the conditions in which these guys have to serve and work.
What we do at Harvard is noble, being a college football player and a student-athlete. But is some respects, it's nothing compared to the sacrifice that these people make. They are true patriots and just trying to carve out a better life for all of us. That truly is how America was built.
I was impressed and moved by many patients I met today. But, to be honest with you, it's one of the people on this tour with us who has impressed me the most. It's Ryan Kules. [Kules lost his right arm and left leg in combat in 2005 and came through Landstuhl.] He is someone who has been through as devastating and traumatic a situation as you can imagine and has somehow emerged with tremendous resiliency and is giving back to people who are in the same situation. Of all the people I met, that guy was one of the most impressive people I met.
There is no question that this helped put a face on the war. I joked with Gen. [Rich] Devereaux that when one of our players has surgery, we bring the parents and kid in beforehand and one of us will drive them to the hospital. And I will joke, "Do you know the definition of minor surgery?" They respond, "What?" And I say, "When the surgery is on someone else's kid."
And that's my point: Even if you are a great patriot or know someone who has been deployed or have a family member, until you see first-hand what these kids go through and what they are doing for our country, we can't fully appreciate it.
Another thing that struck me was that we saw some older injured soldiers. We sometimes forget that we are fighting a real war and it affects a lot of people.
We have a kid on our team from Tennessee whose dad's National Guard unit is going to Afghanistan for a second time. His dad is 47. That drives home the point that we are in a real fight and a real war; it isn't just guys who are just out of the Academy or 19-year old guys who are on the front lines. It takes men and women from all over our country, from a lot of different walks of life, to serve and protect. It's a little bit different from what I expected. For those people, it's all the more impressive.
I have a buddy, a lawyer, who is a former Marine. Well, once a Marine, always a Marine, he says. He goes off to some nice places like Hawaii, but he also goes off to some dangerous places like Africa to serve in his own way. And he embraces the opportunity. He has five kids. To him, it isn't a hardship. It is something to be proud of and he's happy to do it.
That inspires me, just as the faces I saw today did.