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Hokie Heroes: Tales From Our Brothers Serving America

Jay Johnson Checks In With The First Of His Series Of Hokies In The Military

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As September 7th and the contest between Virginia Tech and Ohio State University, at Lane Stadium, marches ever closer I cannot help but reminisce about January 3rd, 2012.  On that day the Hokies faced another Big Ten elite team, the University of Michigan. The contest also marked the Hokies’ last appearance in a BCS bowl. All Virginia Tech faithful remember the heartbreaking overtime loss to the 13th ranked Wolverines. A defeat was certainly not the manner in which we wanted to bid farewell to Hokie standouts like David Wilson, Danny Coale, and Jayron Hosley. Although painful, the sting of the loss is not what I remember. What I remember was the delight of being able to watch the game live, and how enjoyable it was to have a small piece of home brought to me.

I, along with one of my best friends, a Michigan graduate, witnessed the 2012 Sugar Bowl enveloped in 45,000 tons of steel, with a 4.5 acre flight deck above our heads, while steaming across the Pacific Ocean towards our ultimate activity of supporting the efforts of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Within a paraloft, located on the O-3 Level of the USS Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by the aviation survival gear that we would soon don for missions over Afghanistan, we watched. Huddled on step stools, backs hunched, consuming treats liberated from the galley, we witnessed our respective teams compete thousands of miles away.

At any given time there are tens of thousands of military members deployed across the globe, and solace for those members is often found through reminders of home. One of the greatest reminders, and an aspect that helps us maintain context for our labors, is that of sport. As one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges, Virginia Tech has a history richly steeped in military service, and seven alumni have earned the nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor. Virginia Tech continues to maintain a significant presence in the United States Military. In fact, during the three years I was with my initial fleet squadron there were two other Hokies that I served with, and there are even more VPI graduates that I have operated with in addition to those in my squadron.

Throughout my decade in the military I have worn my Virginia Tech pedigree with pride. Whether we have bonded as friends cheering for VPI, or as bitter rivals (UVA also has a robust military presence), our love of collegiate athletics has been a triumphant example of something that brings military members together when we are far from home. As Virginia Tech fans eagerly anticipate the bout between Virginia Tech and Ohio State, let us take a moment to think about those that will, hopefully, be enjoying that game, at odd hours of the day, while in harm’s way.

Editors Note:  Jay Johnson is currently a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and graduated from V.P.I.&S.U. in 2005.