Jan 06 2022
AJ Media Editorial Board | Lubbock Online
In addition to all of the good football news that came out of Memphis in the aftermath of last week’s AutoZone Liberty Bowl contest was the feel-good story of more than 250 Gold Star families being guests of the game.
The game, like many of its postseason bowl brethren, has a distinguished track record of giving back. The Liberty Bowl, which has been played since the late 1950s, featured the intriguing matchup of Texas Tech against Mississippi State and former Red Raider head coach Mike Leach.
The intrigue vanished early as Tech played its most complete game of the season and rolled to a 34-7 win, a result enjoyed by Tech fans as well as the Morin family from nearby Brownfield.
For those who may not know, Gold Star families are those who have lost spouses, children, parents, siblings or others in military service to the nation. The family of Sgt. Steve Morin received four tickets from the Texas Tech athletic department while American Airlines covered their round-trip air tickets and hotel rooms were provided by a donor, according to our story.
The 34-year-old Steve Morin was killed Sept. 28, 2005 by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq, according to our archives. Morin was said to be a natural leader, as is true of so many who sign up for military service and was someone devoted to keeping others out of harm’s way. He joined the military right out of high school, initially serving in the Navy and then the Army National Guard.
The Morin family and others who had lost loved ones during military service joined WWII Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams for the game.
It is difficult if not impossible to truly imagine the heartbreak experienced by these families, which were hosted by the Woody Williams Foundation. A spokesman for the foundation said they had sacrificed in the name of liberty, so it made sense for them to be honored during this particular game.
The families were included in special pregame festivities, allowing them an opportunity to get to know each other and share their poignant stories with some of the few people who would understand. In addition, a traveling Gold Star families Memorial Monument was on display, and they were recognized during the game.
What a special and touching moment that must have been.
Chad Graham, CEO of the Woody Williams Foundation, which is hosting the Gold Star families, said the Gold Star families and their loved ones have sacrificed in the name of liberty, thus they decided to honor them during the Liberty Bowl.
“Historically, something like this has never been done before on that level in terms of that amount of families,” Graham, the foundation CEO, said in our story. “It’s really important for everybody that’s going to be watching the game to really take a moment to pause and think about those Gold Star families, their loved ones that pay that ultimate sacrifice – that’s why we have the freedoms and liberty.”
Indeed. In this deeply and closely divided nation, terms such as sacrifice, duty and honor sometimes get lost, but one look at a Gold Star family should remind everyone of what makes this country great.
Saying thank you is really not enough, but sometimes it’s all we have. Congratulations to Texas Tech athletics and the Liberty Bowl for their parts in making this memorable moment take place.