There are certain times when football, basketball, soccer, hockey, track and field, baseball, softball, cross-country and other sporting events are utilized as a platform to recognize a greater honor.
This weekend, when more than 400 Purple Heart recipients and their families step onto the cold, artificial turf of Jones AT&T Stadium to be recognized for their valiant efforts, fans of Texas Tech and Kansas State — Americans — will remember just that.
Blayne Beal, associate athletics director, said Tech, the Lone Survivor Foundation, Under Armour and the Military Order of the Purple Heart collaborated for the Lone Survivor themed game on Saturday at the Jones, in which the Red Raiders will wear specially designed game uniforms provided by Under Armour.
“This game is being presented to call attention to the tremendous work being done by the Lone Survivor Foundation,” Beal said, “and also to honor our nation’s veterans and active duty military personnel. This is going to be a unique event and the only event of its kind across the nation, and Texas Tech is very grateful to be playing the role that it is.”
This will be the largest gathering in history of Purple Heart recipients at an NCAA football game, he said.
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds in action, according to a news release. It is specifically a combat decoration.
The organization now known as the Military Order of the Purple Heart, was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who received the decoration, according to the release. It is composed exclusively of Purple Heart recipients.
Pete Naschak, retired Navy SEAL and president of the board for LSF, said the goal of the foundation is to assist wounded service members who are suffering with post-traumatic stress, military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury and pain-management issues.
“We work with them by taking them to ranch retreats, getting them out of their normal environment and helping them to learn and understand what they’re dealing with and work as a functional unit,” he said. “A team, just like a solid football team, at home so they can work through the issues and move on and do what they have to do in life the right way and the best way possible.”
The foundation utilizes psycho-educational therapy and equine-assisted learning to reinforce principles addressed during therapeutic sessions, Naschak said.
Marcus Luttrell, author of the 2007 No. 1 The New York Times best-selling book, “Lone Survivor,” established LSF in 2010 after returning to his ranch in Texas and based it on firsthand experiences about what is needed to provide holistic healing beyond standard government programs, while honoring his lost comrades from Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan, according to the release.
“I think it’s important to remember that this group has not been around all that long,” Naschak said. “It was started in 2010 by Marcus Luttrell who wrote the book ‘Lone Survivor,’ which has come out to be a movie that’s going be coming out in January, and he is the inspiration for what we do.
“Our group is unique in what we accomplish, these therapeutic ranch retreats are not just a vacation. There is heavy work that’s being done and we are doing great work with individuals that have benefited from what we do in a unique way.”
LSF is appreciative of what all parties involved have done to support the cause behind Saturday’s game, Naschak said.
“It’s truly an honor and we are extremely excited to be involved with an institution of your caliber,” he said. “We appreciate everything that Under Armour and both Texas Tech are doing to support our important mission of restoring, empowering and renewing hope for our wounded service members and their families.”
Tim Kingsbury, father of Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury, and the late Guffrie Smith, father of basketball coach Tubby Smith, will be among the many honored for their service in a special ceremony during Saturday’s game. Tim Kingsbury and Guffrie Smith were both awarded Purple Hearts while serving in Vietnam and World War II, respectively, according to the release.
Kingsbury said his father’s service is something he always admired.
“Yeah that’s a huge honor, something I’ve always been very proud of,” he said. “He’s a marine, Purple Heart recipient and Vietnam vet. That’s something I’ve always been proud of. So it will be great to have him here and be part of that.”
Tech also will host Gold Star families from the South Plains as well as guests from Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M., according to the release.
The Gold Star Lapel Button, which also is referred to as the Gold Star pin, is given by the Department of Defense to the immediate family members of a service member who lost their life in conflict or in support of certain military operations, according to the release.
Kirby Hocutt, director of athletics, said in the release that the game will be an opportunity for fans to show their admiration for veterans and those in active duty.
“Texas Tech is honored to have Marcus Luttrell, the Lone Survivor Foundation, Purple Heart recipients and Gold Star families on our campus for a celebration of courage,” he said in the release. “The sacrifices of so many brave men and women, including Marcus, give us all great reason to pause and reflect on their service of our great nation. This game will be a great opportunity for Red Raider fans to show their admiration and respect for our veterans and active duty military personnel.”
The specially designed jerseys were orchestrated to recognize the overall Lone Survivor theme, according to the release.
The wing design, showcased on the helmet and shoulders of the jersey, was inspired by the LSF logo to represent Operation Red Wings. Under Armour developed a custom “Never Quit” print for the helmet, shoulders of the jerseys and pants to reinforce the LSF creed, “Never quit on those who never quit on us.”
No. 19 is displayed on the helmet and jersey patch to honor the 19 soldiers who sacrificed their lives during Operation Red Wings, according to the release.
Although kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, the festivities will begin prior to kick off when paratrooper and veteran Dana Bowman skydives into the stadium with a parachute dedicated to Purple Heart recipients and the American flag.