COLUMBUS, Ohio – Commonalities between humans are present more often than people think or realize. Around the world, individuals are making choices, some deliberate and others unintentional, that will eventually have an effect on their neighbors. The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team and the Bravo Company of the first battalion in the 506th infantry regiment understand this domino effect of actions can both win a championship and save a life.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Perhaps no one understands this better than those who live and work together toward a common goal.
Columbus, Ohio. Each year, Ohio State men’s lacrosse head coach Joe Breschi and his team work toward capturing a championship. The student-athletes endure 6 a.m. practices and make sacrifices daily for the team. But in the 2006-07 season, the Buckeyes banded together for a bigger cause. Through the program Americans Supporting Americans (ASA), the team became one of 17 collegiate lacrosse teams to foster American troops serving in Iraq. The Ohio State lacrosse players sent items including OSU athletic apparel, books and magazines to the Bravo Company of the first battalion in the 506th infantry regiment last October.
Ramadi, Iraq. Separated from the rest of their battalion, Maj. John McLaughlin and the Bravo Company called Ramadi, one of the most dangerous and bleak areas in the war torn country, home. For 52 weeks, McLaughlin and his men, known as the “Band of Brothers,” lived in conditions unimaginable to most Americans. Four hour sleep shifts, constant combat and 120-degree heat became their norm. Often the soldiers would exercise on donated fitness equipment to release the stress of daily fire fights. In addition, the men escaped the harsh environment through care packages sent from the U.S. Allowed only two duffel bags and a backpack of personal goods, McLaughlin’s division looked forward to receiving each package. As he addressed the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team before its game against Bucknell (March 3, 2007), he stressed the importance of their actions.
“What you did for that company was amazing,” McLaughlin said. “What set OSU apart from other groups was a shared bond. You are the same age as our soldiers and you have committed yourself to a team just like the soldiers did when they joined the Army.”
McLaughlin and his division returned home in time for Thanksgiving last year after living among the Iraqi people in what was a high-stress year for the soldiers who faced enemy fire almost everyday. Then-Buckeye senior captain Chris Li said the team was excited to take on this project and was happy to welcome McLaughlin as their honorary captain for the game vs. Bucknell.
“It gave us a common goal and theme to base our season on,” Li said. “Listening to McLaughlin speak, it shows how much our actions really helped.”
Li and his teammates practiced and played by the motto “Band of Brothers” last season. Inspired by the dedication their counterparts have made to the U.S. Army, Breschi’s team has also played a special role to the Bravo Company. McLaughlin told the student-athletes because of Ohio State’s notoriety and the similarity in ages the company was able to relate to the lacrosse players more so than with the small businesses that also fostered them.
“The brotherhood you build becomes your motivation on the field,” McLaughlin said. “It means more to take pride in your teamwork. That’s what it comes down to for you in a game and for the soldiers as they defend their home.
“Remember the brotherhood between you as you take the field and relish this experience because there are few opportunities in this world to develop relationships like this.”
Breschi and his team walked away from McLaughlin’s spirited message and lived out what McLaughlin spoke about. Although Ohio State dropped to Bucknell, 7-6, there was no one-man show. Each player worked together as the team battled back in the fourth quarter from a 7-4 deficit to nearly tie the game.
“It was awesome to have John spend time with us,” Breschi said. “Words can not describe how important he and his company are to us for their efforts to protect our country. He talked about leadership and bonding today and there is a lot of correlation between what a group has to do to prepare to win a game and to prepare to fight a war.”
With the Bravo Company’s flag hanging in OSU’s locker room throughout the 2007 season, the men of Scarlet and Gray took the field with the larger picture in mind. They remembered that it is the brotherhood between them and their common bond to each other that will make them champions in the long run.
by Emily Meyer, Ohio State Athletics Communications