Hawaii has its share of real Warriors
Scout-teamers Alonzo Chopp and Ammon Tong completed careers in the Marine Corps before joining UH's football team
Alonzo Chopp and Ammon Tong were enlisted men in the Marines, but they're Hawaii captains tomorrow night at Aloha Stadium.
Utah State at Hawaii
Where: Aloha Stadium
When: Tomorrow, 6:05 p.m. Gates open at 3 p.m.
TV: Live on pay-per-view digital Channel 255. Call 625-8100 on Oahu or (808) 643-2337 statewide. PPV delayed rebroadcast 10:30 p.m. Free rebroadcast Sunday, 10 a.m. on KFVE Channel 5.
Radio: KKEA 1420-AM
Parking: Lot gates open at 2:30 p.m. Parking is $5. Alternate parking at Leeward Community College (free, $2 shuttle), Kam Drive-In ($5, free shuttle). Shuttles are from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and approximately one hour after game ends. Parking also at Radford High School ($3 no shuttle). No tailgating at alternate parking sites.
Stadium security: No weapons, backpacks, coolers, umbrellas or megaphones allowed in the stadium. Fanny packs, purses and handbags will be permitted subject to check.
Tickets: Prices range from $5 for students to $28 for sideline. Available online at hawaiiathletics.com, by phone at 944-2697 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or at the Stan Sheriff Center, Aloha Stadium, UH Campus Center, RainbowTique at Ward Center and Windward Community College's OCET office.
Military night: Fans with valid military ID (active, retired or reserve) may buy two tickets for the price of one. Also, fans with a UH CreditBack Card can get four for the price of two (presale only). The offers are available at the Stan Sheriff Center today, and Aloha Stadium today and tomorrow.
Student buses: Four free buses will pick up students in front of Gateway House (2653 Dole Street), leave for the stadium at 4:30 p.m. and return 45 minutes after the game ends.
Neither Warriors sophomore has played a down this season and both were originally not scheduled to dress as UH (3-6, 3-4 WAC) plays Utah State (2-6, 1-4). But coach June Jones said the scout-team members symbolize what's right about the U.S. armed forces and college football. He decided yesterday to make them game captains on "Military Night" and he let them know today, on Veterans Day.
"They are both very dependable guys," Jones said. "You can always count on them."
Quarterback Colt Brennan said Chopp and Tong have the respect of their teammates.
"What they did puts what we do in perspective," Brennan said.
Both walk-ons hope to see action on the football field someday. They are thankful they did not on the battlefield, although they were ready and willing.
Chopp completed his four-year enlistment in 2003 while stationed at Kaneohe. The communication specialist's unit has since been to and returned from Iraq.
"It's an honor to be a veteran, serve my country. I did what I had to do, and I was fortunate enough to get out and be able to come to college and play football. The Marines will always be a big part of my life," Chopp said.
Chopp said he is relieved that none of his friends were killed or wounded while his unit was deployed. He said he is against the war.
"Me, personally, I don't understand why we're over there. I'd like to see the rest of the guys there come home, because I don't see us accomplishing anything there," he said. "Just people dying for nothing."
Another UH player, defensive lineman Melila Purcell, is counting the days until his father, also named Melila, returns from Iraq. Sgt. Purcell, a member of the Army Reserve's 100th Battalion, took leave from Iraq to see his son play against USC in September.
"It was good to see him, but hard to see him leave again," the son said. "We get to talk about once every two weeks, when he's in from the field."
Chopp said his Marines training helps him maintain focus as a team member who practices every day but doesn't get the Saturday night payoff.
"Anytime you're in a situation where you're working hand-in-hand with others, you have to have camaraderie and stick together to complete the mission, or whatever you're trying to accomplish. If you're not together and everyone's going in their own direction, it's just not going to work," he said. "When I went into the Marines as a private, I was at the bottom of the totem pole. I had to work my way up. Same thing here. Eventually my time will come. I've just got to be ready for when I do get the chance."
Tong maintains a similar attitude.
"I feel like I have good discipline from the Marines," said Tong, who was a marksmanship instructor at Camp Pendleton. "If something has to be done, do it. That's the bottom line."
Because of his value as an instructor, Tong remained in California when his unit went to Iraq. Although he wanted to be with his comrades, he said he felt lucky to be left behind. Tong concentrated on preparing Marines for combat and survival until his enlistment ended in 2004 and he walked on at UH last fall.
"(Today's) a day that makes me feel appreciated. But it's especially for all the fallen soldiers in all the wars. It also makes me think about people in my unit who made the ultimate sacrifice," said Tong, who knew several Marines who died in Iraq.
Football teammates consider themselves brothers. So do Marines. The paths of Chopp, a running back from Texas, and Tong, a defensive tackle from Kaiser High, don't cross very often on the practice field as they help prepare the first strings. But they share a double bond.
"We talk with each other about how it was in the Marines, guys we know in each other's units and what we miss and don't miss," Tong said.
"If I wasn't in the Marines I wouldn't have met so many people," he added. "I was just some guy from Hawaii. But I got to share my culture and I learned a lot about others. It opened me up."
Both have seen the movie "Jarhead" and said it was fairly realistic.
"It was pretty good, except they didn't blow up enough stuff and they gave away a lot of our secrets of what we do in our spare time," Chopp said with a laugh.
Today is also a special one for Utah State athletic director Randy Spetman. The former Air Force football player and athletic director was the Air Force's chief of bomber planning during Desert Storm.
"It was a great honor to serve the nation," he said.