Celebrating a veteran united a stadium full of rivals
Published 8:35 am Thursday, October 24, 2019
As a Mississippi State University Bulldog fan, Saturday’s game against the Louisiana State University Tigers was certainly not one that was wrapped in maroon and white.
While the Dawgs looked decent the first half of the game, things fell apart quickly after half time.
And to make matters worse, up in the nosebleed section of the stadium where I was sitting, there was a less than gentlemanly LSU supporter behind me.
After a couple of profanities, I turned around and gave him my best “judging mother” look hoping he would feel ashamed.
He probably didn’t, but it made me feel better
Shortly into the third quarter, when the rout truly began, I couldn’t bear to watch any longer, so I decided to leave.
As I was making my way down from the 300 level of Davis Wade Stadium, I heard the crowd standing and cheering so I stopped to see what was happening.
I caught sight of Scott Field and noticed a man in a wheelchair.
The announcer was recognizing Iraq veteran Sgt. Matt Zajach for his service.
Still recovering from his injuries that included the loss of both legs, the crowd was going wild as Zajach waved to the more than 60,000 fans in attendance.
It was a moment that even the LSU fans may have wished they had had a cowbell in hand to ring as this soldier was recognized.
And if I thought the sound of the crowd could not get any louder, it did when Zajach stood up out of his chair and took a few steps with his two prostheses.
While I witnessed this man’s grit and fortitude, tears welled up in my eyes, and it was really hard to hold them back seeing the smile across his face as the crowd roared.
The game may have been going sour, but there was no way, after witnessing this moment, I could walk away discouraged.
As I have ruminated this week about Zajach and the cheering crowd, I thought how wonderful it is when there is unity.
Countries, communities and citizens often disagree on policies, principles and politics, digging in with no compromise or concessions in sight.
And it seems divisiveness has even become a badge of honor.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead of fixating on our differences, we would strive to seek out our commonality?
It seems this is the very least we owe the men and women who serve our country and to the parents who have lost a son or daughter in the line of duty.
We can accomplish so much more when we come together, and the evidence was in the stadium on Saturday.
Thank you, Sgt. Matt Zajach, for your service and for allowing me the opportunity to stand in a crowd of solidarity.
Saturday was a win after all.
Terri Cowart Frazier is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.