The occasion was the spring football game for Army with the Cadets making the trip from the U.S. Military Academy in New York to Georgia for the intrasquad game and to honor military heroes for service to our country. I was fortunate enough to be invited as a former player for the Doughboys and I really enjoyed the day at Fort Benning.
Doughboy Stadium is a beautiful little facility. It holds about 10,000 folks and there was a big crowd there for the event. To be around the soldiers in their uniforms, the men and women, and honor some of our heroes while I was there made it a special day. One of the honorees introduced to the crowd had won the medal of honor, there were two service cross winners honored, two bronze star recipients and I believe four purple heart recipients.
I was fortunate to get the opportunity to talk to the players, coaches, soliders and General Brown, who is the commanding officer at Fort Benning. I know he played basketball at Army and was there with Mike Krzyzewski, the basketball coach at Duke. They have a close relationship and the general has had the coach speak to officers on the subject of leadership.
There was a great football atmosphere at Doughboy Stadium, which has an open end zone. You could see the tailgate parties set up outside and it was just a fun day. There was even a group of Auburn fans set up at one of the tailgate parties and, of course, I had to stop by and say hello.
I was involved in ROTC as a student and was commissioned out of college and then went to Fort Benning for basic training for three months. After I served my three months in basic training, I was scheduled to go to Fort Jackson.
General Hankus, who was the commanding general at Fort Benning at the time, wanted to have a strong post football team because he thought it would be good for the morale of the whole post. He made sure that happened and might have changed some orders around to keep some of us there.
There were 27 of us on the Doughboys who had played four years of college football. In addition, we had some outstanding players, enlisted men, who had been playing service football.
When we won the service championship in 1964 it was a big thing on post and a lot of fun for us. I was fortunate enough to be named the Service Player of the Year and was invited to the Washington, D.C., Touchdown Club's awards dinner. That is where I?met Coach (Bear) Bryant, who was at the event to receive an award.
I can't remember them all, but I do recall that Roger Staubach was there along with Dick Butkus and Lenny Moore plus Coach Ara Pareseghian. The 10,000 meters champion runner, Billy Mills, was also there. That was a pretty good group of folks.
I had the opportunity to meet with Coach Bryant at the event. At that time little did I know that I would be working for him as an assistant coach at Alabama in less than six months.
Playing for the Doughboys is a good memory. I enjoyed my 2 1/2 years in the service. I played football for about four months of the year and I served in the mechanized infantry as part of a support unit that provided and serviced all of the equipment for officers going through their training.
Returning to Fort Benning brought back a lot of memories although the amount of change is what stood out. Riding around the post it reminded me of a big, big university with academic buildings, a main headquarters facility and beautiful grounds with gigantic oak trees that have been there for 100 years.
One thing I wanted to do on my trip back to the post was visit the museum, but there wasn't time for that. I'm going to make a trip back over there and go through it. I heard it is well worth the time even though it may take two days to see it all.
Like I mentioned, I ran into a group of Auburn people at their tailgate party. There were about 15 or 20 folks there. I ate a hotdog with them, talked a bit and had a good time before the game. After arriving in the stadium I had to go out on the field and was recognized as an old Doughboy with a lot of other people who had been on that team over the years. It was just a fun, fun day.
I wish everybody had a chance to go witness what I witnessed at Fort Benning. It made would have made you proud to be an American being around those soldiers and support people on post.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.