September 11 forever alters lives of Army-Navy game players (cont.)
"Winnie [Ron Winchester] was like a big brother to me. There were a few guys from his class  who took the guys from my class ['03] under their wing and looked out for us. They treated us like teammates and friends. Winnie was always the class clown of the O-line. He talked with a thick New York accent and had the bravado and confidence to back it up. He was the stereotypical 'nasty' O-lineman on the field: talking trash, shoving, starting skirmishes, the whole nine yards. Only off the field he was a real funny, likeable dude who everyone respected. He had a very giving nature behind his personality. He absolutely loved the Marine Corps, and would have gone to the Academy just for the chance to be an officer in the Marines even if it meant he couldn't play football."
"After Ron and J.P. died, a buddy and I decided to get a bracelet with their names [inscribed] and the dates of their deaths. So I walk around with bracelets for three friends who were killed in combat. I've flown more than 1,000 hours wearing those bracelets. When people say, 'What are those names?' I love it. It gives me a chance to tell their stories. It's hard to see people you know -- friends, teammates, classmates -- get killed. But they were doing what they thought was right. They were doing what they loved."
"I'm not worthy of writing a biography on these guys, but hopefully you get an idea of the types of people they were. Thinking back, it's just so damn tragic that guys of this caliber are taken from us. It's a shame my wife, and most of my buddy's wives, will never get a chance to meet these guys, because they'll never know how lucky we were to have them as friends, teammates and brothers."
The Army-Navy rivalry is sufficiently rich in drama and backstories that Showtime Sports and CBS Sports are partnering to produce a two-hour documentary that will follow recruits at both academies for several months. Web episodes will air on CBS.com this fall. The final product, tentatively titled A Game of Honor will air on Showtime the week following the Dec. 10 game at FedEx Field.
Gene Palka, Army DT
"It is still one of the most patriotic sporting events that anyone can go to. I think the thing that's changed a little bit -- having gone to this one last year [in 2010] -- is the number of heroes you see at the game; guys you played football with, or guys that you went to West Point with who have done some amazing things for this country. You get to see and interact and talk with those people and share some experiences that [most people in this] country can't even fathom. When I was a cadet, we didn't have young officers with the recent combat experience that they do now."
Martin Pierce, Army SS
"Guys that have served, like myself and my fellow comrades in arms, we don't ever forget. Especially when the first week of December rolls around. I still think that it's an importance piece of college football, and an important piece of the history of the game. When you do actually end up being deployed and you go out to your units and you understand when you're working with various members from the other services, it's definitely brothers in arms; you're definitely teammates."
"I don't know of any other academic course that I took, or any other extracurricular event I partook in while at West Point, that has had as big of an impact [on my life] as Army football. There are quite a few analogies [comparing football to] war. Although it's not [entirely accurate] -- because the majority of the time it's not life or death on the football field -- there is something it does instill, so many intangibles to being in a situation where it is life or death on the battlefield. I don't think there's any better preparation than football to get you ready for that. I honestly don't. It's a team sport where all 11 guys in the huddle, whether they're on offense, defense or special teams, are working as one, as a unit. There's typically a leader on the offense and defense and special teams, and you're going against a guy that you want nothing more than to beat. You might get bumped and banged and hurt and bruised, but you better wipe your face off and get up and go after the guy again."
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