When Air Force found out its football game on Sept. 11 this year was at Falcon Stadium, the ideas started flowing.
The Falcons athletic department wanted to have a classy, respectful ceremony before the Sept. 11 game against BYU, and have put together what should be an emotional pregame program.
According to Dermot Coll, Air Force’s associate AD for external relations, the highlight of the pregame ceremony will be the inclusion of Detective Steve Hayden, a New York police officer who is on the emergency services unit and also served 23 years in the military, and FDNY firefighter Ken Haskell, whose brothers Tommy and Timmy died on fire duty when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. Hayden and Haskell will be honorary game captains, and will meet the team on the day before the game.
The Cadet Wing will march out before the game for the national anthem, and when they face toward press box, they will be facing Hayden and Haskell, and behind Hayden and Haskell will be a wall of Colorado police officers and firefighters and some Air Force personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. During breaks in the game, Air Force personnel will be recognized.
Two flags will fly at Falcon Stadium that day. The first, which will be parachuted into the stadium, will fly over the World Trade Center site in the next few weeks. The other is one that has flown in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be carried in by an Air Force player, who has yet to be determined, as he leads the team on the field.
The game itself will be big for the Air Force team, against conference rival BYU, and the Sept. 11 ceremonies should make for a very poignant “Remembrance Day.”
“We want to remember the sacrifice of that day and honor some people who were there and served since,” Coll said. “It impacted the academy tremendously, that day. It’s something that I think everybody here thinks about every day. We had the chance to remember those who passed away at the Pentagon, Shanksville and New York City, and it was a no brainer for us to say, ‘We have to find a way to honor that.’”
Air Force, which has not yet sold out the BYU game, has offered $5 tickets to firefighters, police officers, rescue personnel and local military personnel.