BHS Football leads the Broadway Community in Keeping Bucky's Memory Alive
By: Ben Elliott
In my first year coaching, I gained a reputation for being jittery before games. There were even such accusations of me pacing back and forth which I can’t confirm or deny. However, over the years I've learned to stay more level headed which I’m usually very good about.
Yet despite the change, there’s one game that I always revert back to that first year all over again. The Soldier Tribute Game.
Being here at Broadway means we get to shed light on some pretty important issues throughout the football season. We do games for childhood cancer & breast cancer awareness in addition to the final home game of the season which is always Soldier Tribute Night. These nights are cherished by all those involved. As a player, wearing the jerseys into school during any one of these nights is a different feeling. You’re playing for something much bigger than yourself.
And Soldier Tribute is a perfect reminder of playing for something bigger than you.
I remember my first tribute experience as a member of the program back in 2019. Our Thursday night pregame meal featured various speakers that discussed their experiences and battles with PTSD since returning from combat. It gave us an eye opening moment that none of us will ever forget. You get a sense of just how real that experience is and more importantly, how universal that experience is all across the country.
My great grandfather served in World War II in the Army and my grandfather served in Vietnam with the Navy. Although I wasn’t old enough to ask either one of them about their various times in the service, I’ve gotten to know stories from people that remind me of them. My family and I are from Worcester, Massachusetts, which like any other small town or city, holds a huge veteran population. And I remember having my grandmother down to visit in person at Soldier Tribute Night in 2019 and it was an unbelievable time.
It showed me that this game is much bigger than us, and its reach is truly nationwide.
By far the most goosebumps inducing moment of the tribute night has to be pregame.
We warm up as normal in our compressions, saving the big uniform reveal for game time. We come back down to the locker room and one deserving player gets to wear Bucky Anderson’s #21. One of Bucky’s officer’s hands out the jersey to the player minutes before the game. Hearing the famous “number so and so, you’re in the wrong jersey tonight” speech never gets old and brings goosebumps to me every time I think about it.
Having the number 21 back on the field with us is a testament to just how big a community can be. When asked about what Soldier Tribute Night means to her, Margaret Anderson, Bucky’s Mom said:
"As a mother it means they haven't forgotten my son. The soldier tribute game means so much to my family and I. I truly believe the community loves this night, Bucky loved playing football at Broadway and on Thursday night before the game I would fix a big meal at our house for Bucky and some of his teammates. It is always an honor to me when they hand out the 21 jersey on that Friday night. Bucky's commanding officer makes the trip from Pennsylvania to give out that jersey. The soldiers that come to Broadway on Soldier Tribute Game are from all over our country. They come Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia. Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York,”.
I must admit, winning the game and going to see the Anderson family and members of Bucky’s regiment is a feeling that is second to none. And I am sure that everyone who has ever been apart of that night will tell you, we may not remember every detail of most games we play however, we remember every little detail about every tribute night we’ve ever been a part of. We remember the motorcycles blaring pregame, we remember the heart wrenching stories and most importantly, we remember to always look for #21 on the scoreboard because it always has a way of showing up. We remember that community support goes further than one could ever imagine.
When we asked Margaret Anderson what she would say to the Broadway Community, her response shows just how special this community is;
"My family and I would like to thank our Broadway community for the love and support they have shown us since this nightmare happened. The community is so awesome and always welcomes the soldiers that Bucky served with and the soldiers from Ft. Drum that attend the soldier's tribute game. We live in a great community. Broadway football coaches, players and parents are the best. Coach Grogg always tells me if you need anything please let me know. Coach Grogg is one of my biggest supporters for Bucky's bingo and any fundraiser I need him for. Coach Trumbo and former Coach Herndon were Bucky's coaches when he played for Broadway. Coach Willie Tinnell has been my biggest supporter since 2010 when Bucky was KIA [Killed In Action]. So yeah the community we live in is the greatest community around."
Broadway will hold Soldier Tribute Night activities on Friday, November 3 when the Gobblers host Harrisonburg.
Bucky Anderson's family is honored as Honorary Captains during the 2022 Soldier Tribute Game at BHS.